Barry Glendenning on 2 May 2018
Chelsea have applied the seductive smokey eye and are are hitching their skirts in the direction of Bayer Leverkusen right-back Benjamin Henrichs, according to this morning’s loud burp of transfer tittle-tattle. One of several youngsters selected by Joachim Löw for the experimental German side that won the Confederations Cup last summer, the 21-year-old can play in a wide range of positions and has already attracted interest from both Manchester clubs. However, it is Chelsea who are reported to be preparing a £31m bid which would trigger the release clause in his contract with the Bundesliga side. Despite uncertainty over Antonio Conte’s future, Chelsea are also believed to be interested in taking Anthony Martial from Manchester United, but may have to go toe to toe with Juventus, Bayern Munich and Tottenham Hotspur in the scramble to secure the French forward’s services.
If, as seems likely, Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League, they’ll be forced into a clear-out in order to satisfy financial fair play rules. David Luiz is wanted by Napoli, while Manchester United are keen on Willian. Loanees Michy Batshuayi (Borussia Dortmund), Kurt Zouma (Stoke), Lucas Piazon (Fulham) and Kenedy (Newcastle) have all been deemed surplus to requirements, while Danny Drinkwater is also likely to be be sold after just one season on the fringes of the first team. Tammy Abrahams and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are expected to survive any summer cull, but the Stamford Bridge club may have to prepare for life without Eden Hazard if, as expected, Real Madrid make a big bid.
Manchester United defenders Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have been told they can seek alternative employment this summer, while Eric Bailly is understood to be concerned about his future at Old Trafford after being given the cold shoulder by José Mourinho. Reports in Spain suggest Lazio’s Serbian midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic may take one of the spare dressing room pegs freed up by any mini-exodus from Old Trafford, while United – along with Barcelona and Chelsea – are hoping to take Héctor Bellerín from Arsenal.
Representatives of Rafael Benítez are in talks with Newcastle United managing director Lee Charnley regarding the Spaniard’s future at the club, with speculation mounting that he could be on the verge of a return to Napoli. Most reports suggest Rafa would quite like to stay on Tyneside, but wants assurances that he will be given transfer funds and more autonomy at a club whose short-term future remains up in the air. The 58-year-old made no secret of his annoyance at not being supported by the club hierarchy in the transfer market last summer and will have no shortage of offers if he decides to leave St James’ Park.
And finally, Luis Enrique is on the verge of pricing himself out of the running to be on the shortlist of candidates to become the new Arsenal manager, with club overlords reported to be unimpressed with his demands of £15m a year after tax. Whoever replaces Arsène Wenger is likely to take home less than the £8.5m salary trousered annually by the outgoing manager and Jürgen Klopp’s assistant Zeljko Buvac has emerged as a surprise contender for the role.