Barcelona close to beating Chelsea to Jules Koundé after agreeing €50m fee | Barcelona

Barcelona are close to beating Chelsea to the signing of Jules Koundé after agreeing a €50m fee with Sevilla for the France defender.

Chelsea thought they had won the race to sign Koundé last week, but Thomas Tuchel will have to shift his focus to other defensive targets after Barça derailed his transfer plans once again. Wesley Fofana is one option for Tuchel, though Leicester will not allow the 21-year-old centre-back to leave unless they receive a huge bid for him.

Leicester have plenty of leverage after handing the Frenchman a new five-year deal in March. Brendan Rodgers needs to sell players before making signings this summer, but it is understood that the club will demand at least £70m if Chelsea make a move for Fofana. The asking price could even be as high as £85m, which is how much Leicester managed to hold out for when they sold the England centre-back Harry Maguire to Manchester United in 2019.

Chelsea could be reluctant to pay a large fee for Fofana given that he missed much of last season after sustaining a broken leg last summer. The defender, who enjoyed an impressive first year in England after Leicester signed him from St Étienne for £36.5m in October 2020, returned from his injury in March.

The worry for Tuchel is that Chelsea’s new regime is struggling to respond to losing Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen to Barcelona this summer. Chelsea have strengthened their defense by signing Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, however they lost out to Bayern Munich in the battle to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, failed to buy Nathan Aké from Manchester City and have made little progress in talks with Paris Saint-Germain over Presnel Kimpembe.

The latest blow for Chelsea is missing out on Koundé, who can play as a right-sided centre-back, a right-back and a right wing-back. They had been interested in the 23-year-old since last year and were willing to meet Sevilla’s demands for a £55m fee.

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However Barça, who have already beaten Chelsea to the signing of the Brazilian winger Raphinha from Leeds, have refused to give up on Koundé despite appearing to have dropped out of the race last Friday. The Catalans have experienced major financial problems, but they have used economic levers to raise their transfer budget. Barça’s manager, Xavi Hernandez, has made Kounde a priority signing.

Chelsea, who shortlisted the RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol, Atlético Madrid’s José María Giménez, Internazionale’s Milan Skriniar and Villarreal’s Pau Torres at the start of the summer, are frustrated with Barcelona’s behaviour. They could respond by blocking Xavi’s attempts to sign Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

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