Sunday 4 December 2016

Reports: Chelsea targeting pair of Merseyside-based Belgian strikers

Tom Rooney

Published 03/06/2016 | 16:51

Currently evaluating candidates to replace or augment the irascible Diego Costa, incoming Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has identified Everton’s Romelu Lukaku as his number one target, but failing that, he’ll take want-away Liverpool striker Christian Benteke.

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The transfer silly season has well and truly kicked into overdrive and, at the very least, provides a welcome distraction before the Euros get underway.

Speaking of the European Championships, Antonio Conte still has to contend with the small matter of guiding Ireland’s group rivals Italy deep into the tournament before beginning his tenure at Stamford Bridge. However, he's already planning his assault on the English top flight.

It’s unclear whether or not Diego Costa will remain in London and the out of favour Spain attacker has been linked with a return move to Atletico Madrid. Even if he doesn’t depart, Chelsea need an alternative first rate striker to share the load, and have set their gaze north to the city of Liverpool to find their man.

Coincidentally, their two main targets are native’s of Belgium, another side the Boys in Green will be hoping to overturn in the near future.

Lukaku, who has expressed his desire to leave manager-less Everton to win trophies, and is reportedly valued at £65m, is thought to be the Blues’ preference. Of course, the 23-year-old spent three years at Stamford Bridge, though made just 10 appearances.

Following a season-long loan, the Toffees signed Lukaku for a club record of £28m. Despite a largely disappointing campaign which ended with the dismissal of Roberto Martinez, the striker found the net 25 times.

With new owners, Everton are not in desperate need of the windfall his sale would generate but it appears that Lukaku wishes to move on.

If the Antwerp native stays put or is lured elsewhere, Chelsea, according to The Times, will make a move for Christian Benteke.

Since Jurgen Klopp’ arrival at Anfield, Liverpool’s record signing has failed to make any meaningful impact.

Unsuited to the German’s high-velocity pressing game, Benteke started only 14 Premier League games this season, some of which were under the erstwhile Brendan Rodgers.

The 25-year-old scored 10 goals in all competitions over the campaign but Klopp is said to be suspect of his work rate and mobility.

Liverpool will expect to take a loss on the £32.5m they paid Aston Villa for him, but as Klopp rebuilds the squad, it is likely to be viewed as a necessary cost in achieving more long-term goals. 

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