Aymeric Laporte has decided to leave Athletic Bilbao and join Manchester City this month, Goal understands.
Goal reported on Tuesday morning that City intend to sign the 23-year-old centre-back in January by triggering his €65 million release clause.
It can now be revealed that Laporte has agreed a deal in principle to join City and has informed Athletic of his decision to leave before the end of the winter transfer window.
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Further developments are expected on Wednesday and it is believed that the transfer will develop quickly now that the France international has informed his boyhood club that it is his desire to join City.
He had reached the same conclusion in the summer of 2016 but eventually pulled out of the deal at the last moment, a move which angered the Blues.
That anger has subsided over the past 18 months and the club are now satisfied that he is committed enough to a move to the Etihad Stadium to pursue him once again.
It is believed Athletic will not negotiate any fee lower than Laporte’s buy-out clause, and City are willing to pay that amount in the coming days.
The Blues also want to sign Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred this month and are in negotiations with the Ukrainian side.
Additional reporting by Sam Lee.
Antonio Conte has publicly admitted that Michy Batshuayi will go on loan in January should Chelsea sign a striker this month.
The Blues have been linked with multiple names during the winter window with their prime target being Roma’s Edin Dzeko.
Chelsea have also been targeting Emerson Palmieri as they look to add personnel at left-wing back. They are thought to have completed the Emerson deal but are waiting for the Dzeko situation to unfold.
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Conte had previously said that he wouldn’t allow players to leave unless he signed a replacement and Kenedy was formally announced as a Newcastle United player Tuesday with Emerson likely coming in for his spot. The Chelsea head coach admits that the same situation applies to Batshuayi.
“It’s the same as for Kenedy,” Conte told reporters at Cobham Training Centre. “If another striker arrives, then Batshuayi will go on loan. I think he wants to have the opportunity to play with regularity. I think this is right.
“If we stay with the same players from the start, it doesn’t change. One player goes out, one player comes in. One player comes in, one player goes out. It’s part of our job [to move players on]. I think we have to try in every moment to be honest with our players.
“I repeat, I don’t know if another striker will arrive for Chelsea. But, in this case, I don’t want to send away any player. But a lot of times it’s the player saying he prefers to go away to have the possibility to play regularly. Then you have to show you deserve to play every game.”
However, Chelsea have started Batshuayi for two consecutive games with Alvaro Morata initially rested and then getting a red card.
The 24-year-old Belgian was praised by Conte after his recent display in the 4-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion but says it doesn’t mean he will start again on Wednesday night at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal.
“I don’t know if this is the right time [to play him versus Arsenal],” Conte said. “I think that every player had their chance to play and to show me their value.
“Now I think I have to make the best decision for the team. Every game is different. The quality of your opponent is different. I have to make the best decision to try and exploit my players in the best way. I repeat, our job is not simple, not easy. We have to try to make the best decision every time for the team. And to try to improve our players.
“Sometimes we are able, sometimes we are not able. But you have to do your best to reach your target.”
Morata is not set to return against Arsenal due to a lingering back injury that has already seen him sit out the Huddersfield Town game in December. The £58 million striker is also out of form with no goals in six games for Chelsea.
Conte was asked whether his back is getting in the way of his main striker reaching his previous high levels of performance.
“If you remember, in the past, he stopped himself for a problem in his back. A pain in the back,” Conte said. “Now this pain has come back. I hope not serious. Nothing serious. But this is the second game that he stopped. He wasn’t available against Brighton because this problem was there the day before as well [regardless of his suspension].”
“I don’t know but, for sure, he’s having this problem now. Now it’s with the medical department to try and solve this problem and give him the opportunity to have a training session without pain. But this is the real problem now. Not that he’s not scoring or that his confidence is down. For every striker, you can pass this type of moment.
“But the real problem now is he has to overcome this problem in his back. I hope to solve this problem very quickly because we need Alvaro. We need Alvaro’s commitment.”
Chelsea have completed one signing in January as they have brought in Ross Barkley on a £15 million deal from Everton. The 24-year-old has yet to make his debut after being ineligible against Norwich and being an unused substitute against Brighton.
Conte won’t start Barkley against Arsenal as he eases him back in from a seven month hamstring lay-off that required surgery. He did say that he is ready to use the England international from the bench against Arsenal on Wednesday in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.
“He’s in the squad. I’m very happy because he’s showing he’s into our idea of football. It’s not easy because he’s only been working with us for a week, but now we’re going into the idea. For sure he’s on the bench. If there’s the opportunity and I need to consider him and give him the chance to play, he’s ready to play.”
Antonio Conte admitted that Chelsea are no longer among the world’s richest clubs after losing out to the Manchester clubs for Alexis Sanchez in the January transfer window.
Goal understands that Chelsea did try to sign Sanchez in the summer but dropped their interest ahead of the January transfer window, despite reports on the contrary after Manchester City gave United a free run to bring him in by dropping out fo the race.
Sanchez now earns more than double Chelsea’s highest paid player Eden Hazard with his £500,000-a-week salary, far above Hazard’s current £220,000-a-week contract.
- Chelsea expected to complete move for Roma’s Emerson within next 48 hours
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Manchester United’s financial might currently far exceeds Chelsea’s, while Manchester City are seeing on pitch success with Pep Guardiola at the helm and have outspent Chelsea every year since 2012-13.
Conte wanted to make it clear that Chelsea have to find a cheaper way to win trophies at the moment.
“What happened three years, 10 years or eight years ago was totally different,” Conte told reporters at Cobham Training Centre. “Now I think that we have to fight. We have to fight with our work. I think last season we won the league and finished with £50m [profit, helped by player sales]. No one says this.
“We won the league and reached the FA Cup final, and we finished with a profit of £50m in the transfer market. In the past, this had never happened. For this reason, the situation changed. When the situation changes, you have to fight to try to give all of yourself for Chelsea.
“Now, for sure, United and Manchester City stay there, stay there [at the top, financially]. The first thing is I trust in my work. And I think that, if I stay here, for this reason, it’ll be because the club trusts in my work. And not only the money.
“You can do two types of football: only with money and you pay a lot of money and take the best players; the other way is to try and put a bit of money in and then hard work. We are in the middle. We are working and trying to do our best during the transfer market.
“Last season I think we did a fantastic job and did a little miracle. I repeat, this season is showing this. For me, this is already a good season. Because we are doing 120 per cent.
“I’m doing a fantastic job, the same as my players. It’s not important if you reach the final or win a trophy or win the league. The most important thing is to see if the coach and players are working very hard and very well. This, for me, is a successful season.
“I think, for sure, in this moment there are two teams in this league who are ‘top’. They stay there. The others have to fight. To fight for a place in the Champions League.”
Chelsea have roughly broken even in their past three transfer windows after announcing at the start of the month that they made a £69.2m profit on player trading ahead of last summer’s transfer window.
The club are now looking to spend around £50 million before the end of the current winter market with Roma pair Edin Dzeko and Emerson Palmieri lined up.
However, some fans have complained about their club not being in the running for Sanchez, who was unveiled by United in a swap deal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Conte says that Chelsea weren’t able to battle it out over financial terms with the clubs in Manchester and opted to stay away, despite his admiration for him.
“We never were in this race. Ever. Especially because, I repeat, one of the reasons was this amount of salary. I think, as you know very well, you go in the transfer market you have to know that, if you want the best, you have to spend a lot of money.
“Otherwise you have to go in the middle and spend £20-30m. If you want to reach the best targets, you must be prepared to spend a lot of money. This is the truth. Sometimes I’m surprised with this kind of question because I don’t understand why sometimes someone doesn’t want to see the truth. See the reality.
“This is the market. This is the market. It’s normal that, if you want to buy Neymar, you must be ready to give him €25m. If you want to buy [Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, now Sanchez the same, you must be ready to pay his salary. It depends upon the targets, the players you want to buy.
“Now, it’s not negative. It’s the truth. If you have money you can spend it and have the best players. Otherwise you find other ways to stand up and fight. I must be honest, if a player earns a lot of money, it’s because he is the best.
“Ronaldo scores 50 goals every season, Messi scores 50 goals every season, Neymar does the same. Every player has to understand his level. Not say: ‘Hold on, he takes €30m.’ Yes, because he scores 50 goals. If you score 10 or 15 goals, you’re in the middle. Stop.
“But it’s the same for the coach. If you don’t win or never win the league, or a trophy, you can say you are the best. But the best win. If you win, ask. If you don’t win, don’t ask [for a pay rise].
“It’s the same now as the Sanchez buy. Now I think Manchester United and Manchester City stay at the top. We have to try and build something important to create a base, and then make success with our work. Not with money. With work.
“For sure United have paid it. But I don’t know [about] the other teams. But, I repeat, the most important thing is we’re not worried. If you trust in your work and have the patience, and you can understand the right moment, you can improve through work to try and fight these big teams.
“I think we have to do a big work, and we need to improve with this team. To improve the squad. To create this basis. Don’t forget, in the last couple of years, we lost a lot of old players who wrote the history of this club. There is… I don’t like this word, ‘transition’, but sometimes you have to stop yourself and see the truth.”
Paris Saint-Germain has announced the signing of former Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra.
The 32-year-old French international was available on free transfer and has signed a deal which ties him to PSG until the end of the 2018-19 season.
PSG are thrilled to announce that we’ve signed @Lass_Officiel through June 2019 ! #BienvenueLasspic.twitter.com/oDNUEFVrZM
— PSG English (@PSG_English) January 23, 2018
More to follow…
Mascherano to leave Barca
Barcelona have announced that Javier Mascherano is to depart the club, with the Argentine expected to move to Hebei in the Chinese Super League.
The veteran is expected to depart for a fee in the region of €10 million, having fallen down the pecking order in recent months.
Get the full story right here!
Sevilla can’t agree Vidal fee
Sevilla are struggling to agree a fee with Barcelona to bring Aleix Vidal back to the club, according to Mundo Deportivo .
Vidal signed for Barca in the summer of 2015, but will be allowed to leave Camp Nou in January, with Sevilla leading the chase for the right-back.
However, Barcelona want €12 million for the 28-year-old, with Sevilla hoping the price will be dropped after offering €8m up front plus €2m in add-ons so far.
Liverpool and Manchester United have also been linked with an approach for Vidal, but only a huge financial offer is expected to tempt him to the Premier League.
Madrid & PSG battle for Courtois
Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are both interested in signing Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the summer, reports Het Laatste Nieuws .
Courtois has been offered a new contract by Chelsea , which would make him the best-paid keeper in the world, but the Belgium international has yet to sign the deal.
Kepa Arrizabalaga’s decision to sign a new contract at Athletic Bilbao means Madrid are now back in the hunt for a new keeper and are focusing on Courtois, who has just 18 months left on his current deal.
PSG are also keen on the former Atletico Madrid loanee, although financial constraints could scupper their prospects of agreeing a deal for Courtois.
Man Utd push for Seri deal
Manchester United will aim to follow up the signing of Alexis Sanchez by agreeing a deal for Nice midfielder Jean Michael Seri, claims The Sun .
Alexis completed his move to United from Arsenal on Monday , and now Jose Mourinho wants an agreement in place to sign Seri, either this month or in the summer.
Seri is also an option for Manchester City, although the Ivory Coast international is viewed as a back-up to prime target Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fred .
Barcelona, Chelsea and Liverpool have all previously shown an interest in Seri, but Mourinho hopes United can beat their rivals to the signing of the 26-year-old.
Neymar wants Madrid move with Griezmann & Hazard
Neymar is willing to sign with Real Madrid if Los Blancos also make moves for Antoine Griezmann and Eden Hazard, according to Diario Gol .
The Paris Saint-Germain star has reportedly made it clear he does not want to play with Harry Kane and Mauro Icardi, who have been linked to Madrid as well.
But the potential of linking up with Griezmann and Hazard is enough to tempt Neymar to return to Spain and join Barcelona’s arch-rivals, with the Brazilian said to be uncomfortable in the PSG dressing room.
Hazard having second thoughts about Madrid move
Eden Hazard regrets coming to a verbal agreement with Zinedine Zidane to join Real Madrid, claims Don Balon .
The Chelsea star reportedly has grown concerned by Los Blancos’ erratic form in La Liga this season, leading him to have second thoughts about fulfilling his long-time dream of playing for Madrid.
Man City could pay Laporte release clause
Manchester City are considering meeting the £60 million release clause for Athletic Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte, according to the Sun .
Pep Guardiola is a long-time fan of the 23-year-old French centre-back, who reportedly has also drawn interest from Chelsea, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
Revealed: Top 20 richest clubs in the world
The 2016-17 Deloitte Football Money League rankings have been announced, with Manchester United retaining top spot. But who else makes the top 20?
Read the full story on Goal right here!
Kepa signs new deal with €80m release clause
Kepa Arrizabalaga has brought to an end to rumours linking him with Real Madrid by committing to a new contract with Athletic Bilbao which includes an €80 million release clause.
The fresh terms will keep the highly-rated goalkeeper in his current surroundings until 2025.
Goal revealed on Sunday that the 23-year-old was set to commit to a new deal and quash links to Madrid.
Read the full story on Goal right here!