Football

Chelsea send title warning with moves in transfer market

Chelsea are showing a statement of intent with a flurry of moves, before the summer transfer window is even open.

The Blues have not only secured the signing of Ajax Amsterdam winger Hakim Ziyech on a pre-agreement in January, but are also close to tying up a £53-million (S$94m) deal for RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner.

But it doesn't stop there.

Chelsea have been linked with other big-name signings, in line with their three-year plan to bring back the glory days to Stamford Bridge.

The Athletic's David Ornstein reported that the Blues, who last won the English Premier League title in 2017, have laid out three progressive targets - to forge a cohesive unit with a young squad in the first year, before challenging for honours in the next and then winning those major honours in the third year.

Manager Frank Lampard has accomplished the first, with Blues' academy stars such as Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham becoming first-team regulars this season.

Now, the club are going full throttle, with reports linking them with Bayer Leverkusen's attacking midfielder Kai Havertz, Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell and defensive midfielder Declan Rice from West Ham United.

Top of the list remains playmaker Havertz, who has had a sensational season in the Bundesliga with 15 goals and eight assists in 38 appearances.

But the 21-year-old will not come cheap, with reports suggesting the Blues, backed by Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, will need to fork out more than £90m.

That said, Chelsea hold a position of strength over their main rivals heading into the transfer market, having been banned from signing players last year.

That lack of activity has left the club with plenty of cash to spend this time around and they are looking to outdo their rivals who are feeling the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chelsea are also in the market for a left-back and view England international Chilwell as an upgrade on Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso.

Rice is also high on the agenda, with transfer guru Ian McGarry saying that Lampard wants the highly coveted 21-year-old to be a "vocal presence" in central defence.

Lower on the list are Barcelona attacker Philippe Coutinho, a cheaper alternative to Havertz, Brentford winger Said Benrahma and Flamengo midfielder Gerson.

While there has been a lot of activity off the pitch, Lampard's men will do well to focus on securing Champions League qualification, a carrot for many of the potential transfer targets.

Chelsea, fourth in the EPL, return to action on June 21, when they visit relegation battlers Aston Villa.

Football