Chelsea want as many as four new players in January to help sustain their title charge, with Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk, Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez, West Ham’s Michail Antonio and Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez all strongly linked with moves to Stamford Bridge in recent days.
Despite holding a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League table- having also played a game less than their rivals- the west London outfit are looking to considerably strengthen their squad ahead of the second half of the season.
At the forefront of their thinking seems to be finding a long-term successor to the ageing John Terry, while Cesc Fabregas’ disquiet at his bit-part role and the ensuing speculation over his future has made a new, ball-playing creative midfielder another priority as they bid to reclaim the title from Leicester City.
One potential replacement for the soon-to-be-outgoing Terry is Southampton’s Van Dijk, who has attracted attention from the Blues and a number of other suitors following a run of consistently excellent performances at the heart of defence for Claude Puel’s Saints.
Tracked by Manchester City, Liverpool and Everton, amongst others, and rated in excess of £50 million, the Daily Express reports the Dutchman has emerged as technical director Michael Emenalo’s favoured option to fill the problem position.
The paper claims that the ex-Celtic man has already been the subject of a mega-money £60m bid from Chelsea for his services, with Southampton currently debating whether to accept the offer or wait for a bidding war to ensue.
Another rumoured target for the Blues is Real Madrid outcast James Rodriguez, who appears to be heading for the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu exit door this coming month.
Blessed with a superb left-foot, the Colombian has found himself unable to break into Zinedine Zidane’s Champions League winning side this campaign, and is believed to be keen to make the switch to the Premier League in order to revive his faltering career.
Viewed as a potential like-for-like replacement for Fabregas, the ex-Monaco man stoked the fires over a move to England by first securing a British visa, and then posting a cryptic message of himself on Boxing Day in which he seemed to suggest he was travelling for transfer talks.
It is thought James would be available for a fee of around £60m but with no cover lined up, Real may prefer a summer deal for the 25-year-old.
Powerful West Ham attacker Antonio, meanwhile, is a surprise name on Emenalo’s shortlist, according to the Daily Express.
Oscar’s departure to the Chinese Super League has opened up a gap in Chelsea’s squad, and the England international is understood to be one of the names under consideration to fill the void.
The scorer of eight goals in 2016/17 and under contract for a further four years, Antonio is seen as a prized asset by the east Londoners, and would command a reported fee of £35m to even consider selling at this stage in the campaign.
No move has yet been made by Chelsea, although club officials at the London Stadium have stated that no bids will be entertained for the likes of Antonio and star man Dimitri Payet.
One final area in need of strengthening at Stamford Bridge is the left-back position, where current first-choice Marcos Alonso has relatively little competition.
With that firmly in mind, the Blues have identified Wolfsburg full-back Ricardo Rodriguez as the man to challenge the 26-year-old for a place in the first team.
The Sun writes that Chelsea have contacted the Swiss set-piece specialist’s representatives over a £21m switch as they look to beat city rivals Arsenal to the 24-year-old’s signature.
And the paper adds that a January transfer could be on the cards for Rodriguez, who has struck 15 goals in 140 appearances for the Wolves.