Having appeared contented with a squad that remains on course for an unprecedented haul of four major trophies this season, Jose Mourinho could now be set to make a major addition to strengthen his ranks still further. Strong reports on Thursday suggest that Chelsea are pushing to make a transfer for Fiorentina’s Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado happen before the end of the January window.
It had been thought that Chelsea’s interest in the 26-year-old would hold until the summer, but doubts about the futures of fellow wide attackers Mohamed Salah and André Schürrle are believed to have altered the club’s thinking. In particular, Roma are intensifying their pursuit of Salah. The Egyptian has started just six Premier League games, none this season, since joining from Basel 12 months ago and the Italian title chasers are reportedly keen to do a loan deal with the option of a permanent move.
The clubs reportedly remain without agreement, however, over whether a permanent transfer would be forced or optional, as well as the amount of the payments. According to Italian transfer expert Gianluca di Marzio, talks have taken place between the clubs on Thursday, with Chelsea seeking a million euros (£760,000) more than Roma’s loan offer of 500,000 euros (£380,000) before having an option to pay a further 14 million euros (£10.6 million) to purchase him in 18 months’ time.
Schürrle’s future has also become increasingly scrutinized. While he set up the winning goal for Germany in the World Cup final this summer, he has found a regular place in Mourinho’s lineup difficult to come by in this, his second season at Chelsea. The Guardian reports that Wolfsburg are prepared to pay £23 million to secure his services, with Borussia Dortmund also keen, although more likely to make a formal approach in the summer. It would be a surprise were Schürrle to leave before then, with the former Bayer Leverkusen attacker stating only last month that he was happy at Chelsea and had no intention of departing during the January transfer window.
Still, Chelsea appear to be pushing ahead for Cuadrado. The Times reports that the Blues have already had a £20.6 million offer rejected by Fiorentina, and are now weighting up how close to go to his £26.8 million release clause. Cuadrado starred on the right wing for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup, with his pace and direct running driving the South American side forward and making him a seemingly natural fit for a Mourinho team. Brazilian Willian has been the first choice on the right side of Chelsea’s impressive attack this season, but, while his work rate stands out, his end product has been lacking in comparison with those alongside him, having contributed just one goal and one assist in the Premier League.
While versatile -- he has played in every attacking position for Fiorentina this season and was even reportedly seen by Barcelona as a target to fill their right-back slot last summer -- it is a position on the right wing that Cuadrado is surely being earmarked for at Stamford Bridge. After impressing in his first two years since arriving form Udinese in a co-ownership arrangement, Fiorentina moved to secure his full rights during the World Cup for a total of 20 million euros (£15 million).
And Vincenzo Montella, manager of a Fiorentina side still in contention for a Champions League place in Serie A, has stated that he sees no prospect of Cuadrado leaving this month,
“As things stand I don’t think there’s any chance of him leaving Fiorentina,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday. “He knows that and he also knows that sometimes these things get exaggerated. And on this occasion I’m not blaming the media. It’s just a football situation. It’s nothing but rumors at the moment -- as far as I know anyway. The player’s not realty affected by it.”
Elsewhere, less concrete speculation has linked Chelsea with a transfer for Juventus star Paul Pogba. The Daily Express reports that the Blues are already lining up a £40 million offer for the summer. Pogba has starred since leaving Manchester United for the Italian Champions in 2012 and has been the subject of increasingly strong rumors suggesting he will soon be on his way to one of Europe’s giants. Real Madrid and former club United have been linked, while the France midfielder’s agent has hinted that an exit could soon be forthcoming. If Chelsea or any club are to secure his services, however, it will doubtless cost significantly more than £40 million.