Who should Chelsea sign if Rüdiger, Christensen and Azpilicueta leave? † Chelsea

Chelsea are in a testing predicament. They are likely to lose Antonio Rüdiger, Andreas Christensen and César Azpilicueta at the end of the season and need to bring in new centre-backs to ease their departures. It will be easier said than done. Chelsea are still hamstrung by the ongoing sanctions put in place by the UK government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent freezing of Roman Abramovich’s assets.

Abramovich is in the process of selling the club, but that is taking longer than many had hoped as Todd Boehly waits patiently for the deal to be completed. Should Boehly take charge, he has a big task on his hands to fund a complete revamp of the defence. Here are five centre-backs who have been linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge this summer.

Jules Kounde, Seville

Chelsea thought Jules Koundé was on his way to the club last summer, only for the deal to collapse when Sevilla moved the goalposts at the last minute† However, Chelsea remain keen on the France international. Once Chelsea are free to sign players, Koundé will be a priority.

Sevilla have conceded fewer goals (30) than any other team in La Liga this season and much of that is down to Koundé’s influence at the back. The 23-year-old also has the ability to bring the ball forward and set Sevilla on the front foot. He has made more forward passes (1,703) than any other outfielder in La Liga since the start of last season and this attribute would suit Chelsea in their quest to dominate opponents.

Pau Torres, Villarreal

Pau Torres is expected to leave Villarreal this summer and the Spain international is not short of suitors. Manchester United and Tottenham have both been credited with an interest in the ball-playing centre-back, whose progressive passing would undoubtedly appeal to Chelsea. Only the aforementioned Koundé has made more forward passes than Torres (1,546) since the start of last season in La Liga.

In addition, Torres is not afraid to put his body on the line for the good of the team, which has ended him to Villarreal fans, and increased interest in his services. Since the start of last season, only Diego Carlos (60) has blocked more shots than Torres (47) in Spain’s top tier. He has only been dribbled past 14 times in his 65 league games in the last two seasons. He is not an aggressive defender, but the 25-year-old is a measured, calm and mature centre-back.

Bremer, Torino

If Chelsea wanted to add aggression to their backline, they should look no further than Bremer. The bruising Brazilian signed a new deal with Torino in February, but that was to protect his value and strengthen the club’s negotiating position when haggling with interested parties. Serie A rivals Inter are in contention to land the 25-year-old, but he may prefer a move to the Premier League

Bremer makes a clearance during a recent match against Cagliari.
Bremer makes a clearance against Cagliari. Photograph: Alberto Gandolfo/Shutterstock

Bremer is not afraid to step out of the defense to cut out opponents’ passing lanes and turn defense into attack. He has made more interceptions (105) than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Only Serie A’s top four have conceded fewer goals than Torino (38) this season, an impressive feat considering they shipped 69 league goals last term. Bremer will almost certainly leave the club this summer and Chelsea would benefit from a centre-back of his caliber.

Matthijs de Ligt, Juventus

Having initially struggled to replicate his Ajax performances with Juventus, Matthijs de Ligt has looked far more settled this season, though links about a possible exit refuse to die down. The departure of Giorgio Chiellini, who played his final home game in a Juventus shirt on Sunday night, perhaps complicates matters for teams keen on De Ligt.

The Juventus board will want a return on the young Dutchman, who cost £67.8m in 2019 and is still just 22 years of age. He has improved a lot this season under Max Allegri and Chelsea would need to put in a monumental offer to convince Juventus to part ways with the Netherlands international.

Attila Szalai, Fenerbahçe

Attila Szalai may sound like a leftfield choice, but he was linked with a move to Chelsea in January. Having started out as a left-back, the Hungarian’s versatility would help Thomas Tuchel. He could fill the left-sided centre-back position when Rüdiger leaves.

Fenerbahçe have conceded just 38 goals in the Turkish Super Lig this season, with Szalai starting 25 of their 37 league matches. He would be a cheaper alternative to others on this list and he would be an upgrade on Malang Sarr as the left-footed center-back who is able to play left-back. The 24-year-old has made 1.4 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per 90 minutes for Fenerbahçe this season and, while there is rumoured interest from Newcastle, the promise of Champions League football would appeal to the Hungary international.

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