By Mukwuzi Joseph
Chelsea have opened talks with Seville over the signing of Jules Koundé, having made the French centre-back their top defensive target this summer.
Koundé is considered one of the best central defenders in La Liga, and was part of the France squad for the European Championship this summer. The 22-year-old has a release clause of €80 million, and is open to a move to England as he is keen to play in the Champions League next season. The two clubs have commenced negotiations, although Chelsea are not prepared to pay the release clause.
Thomas Tuchel wants to improve his options at the back, and the manager, who led his side to Champions League glory last season, believes that Koundé is the right fit. Manchester United have also shown an interest in the defender, but Chelsea have made the first move. Sevilla are in financial difficulties, potentially handing Chelsea an advantage during negotiations.
The European champions want to back Tuchel in the transfer market, and have already raised funds by allowing two centre-backs to leave this summer, having sold Fikayo Tomori to Milan for €35 million and Marc Guéhi to Crystal Palace in a deal that could reach up to €23.5 million.
However Chelsea, who are close to signing former Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli on a free transfer, will probably need to lose another central defender if Koundé arrives. Tuchel already has Thiago Silva, Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen at his disposal, while César Azpilicueta played on the right side of a back three last season.
Rüdiger and Christensen both have one year left on their deals, and it is understood that Tuchel could allow the former to leave if the right offer arrives. Zouma could also push to leave after falling down the pecking order under Tuchel.