Chelsea ‘closing in on Kounde transfer’ but Barcelona attempt £51m hijack

Chelsea are reportedly closing in on the signing on Sevilla star Jules Kounde, but could see a move for the centre-back scuppered by Barcelona.

Having lost Antonio Rudiger to Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen to Barcelona on free transfers earlier in the summer, Thomas Tuchel has made bolstering his Blues backline the priority this summer. Chelsea completed a £34million deal for Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli last week and he's expected to be one of three new centre-backs to arrive on the Stamford Bridge scene in the current window.

With Juventus enforcer Matthijs de Ligt set to join Bayern Munich, the Blues have shifted their focus on to other targets, and the search for centre-back recruits has seen Tuchel's side return for Kounde – a player they came so close to signing last summer. According to reports in Spain, Chelsea are once again nearing a deal for the Sevilla star, however Barcelona are understood to be eyeing a hijack.

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Spanish journalist Manu Sainz has insisted Kounde is "very close" to completing an eagerly-anticipated move to Chelsea, which has been over a year in the making. There are suggestions that a deal could indeed be concluded this coming week, though not if Barcelona get their way.

Barca boss Xavi is thought to have spoken with the player directly in an attempt to convince the 23-year-old to snub Chelsea in favour of a move to the Nou Camp this summer. According to Marca, the French centre-back has emerged as the Spanish giants' latest priority, with the La Liga side having just secured deals for Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski.

The Spanish outlet claim Barcelona are now readying a £51m bid for Kounde as they plot to sabotage his proposed move to Stamford Bridge. The centre-back is not currently with the Sevilla squad touring South Korea due to undergoing a pelvic operation as recently as last month.

Where do you think Jules Kounde will be playing his football next season? Let us know in the comments section below.

It appears other clubs are also waiting in the wings, however. Paris Saint-Germain reportedly remain keen on Kounde, while Manchester City are understood to be monitoring the defender's situation, too.

Chelsea came agonisingly close to capturing Kounde last summer, but saw a deal fall through late on in the window as the Blues were thought to be unwilling to meet the player's reported £68m release clause. It was then anticipated that the Frenchman would become the first signing of the Todd Boehly era at Chelsea, however speculation subsided somewhat, while Raheem Sterling became the first through the door this summer.

The England international arrived from Manchester City for a fee thought to be just shy of £50m and he's since been joined at the west London club by Koulibaly. Elsewhere, Chelsea duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso remain heavily linked with Barcelona.

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