Chelsea make Robert Lewandowski main summer target as they plan spending spree
Chelsea will push on with ambitious summer transfer plans despite the crisis that threatens to engulf owner Roman Abramovich, with the club making Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski their No 1 target.
Abramovich’s visa application has been delayed, with the Government set to ask the Russian oligarch how he acquired his wealth if it is to be renewed.
There is also huge uncertainty over the future of Antonio Conte, with both the manager and the club hopeful of a parting of the ways but Chelsea unprepared to pay the kind of compensation – at least £10 million – that it would cost to get rid of the Italian and his nine staff.
Despite that upheaval, Chelsea are still trying to advance with a deal for Lewandowski, who they believe is ready for a move away from the German club and could cost in excess of £100 million.
If Chelsea were successful in their pursuit of Lewandowski his fee would likely be offset by the sale of club-record signing Alvaro Morata, with the Spaniard struggling after he moved to Stamford Bridge for £68 million last summer.
The 25-year-old did not even make the 23-man Spain squad named for the World Cup finals by Julien Lopetegui on Monday, having scored just three goals since the turn of the year. Shortly after the squad was announced, Morata tweeted: “Good luck at the World Cup! I will be supporting you and encouraging you right to the end, as always!”
The striker’s club-mates Cesc Fabregas and Marcos Alonso were also left out by Lopetegui, as was Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin.
Although Lewandowski’s age is not ideal for the kind of hefty price Chelsea would have to pay – he turns 30 in August – he does fit the bill for a proven European goal-scorer and his arrival would also be a crucial way of persuading Eden Hazard, and Thibaut Courtois that Chelsea are serious about challenging again for the Premier League and the Champions League after a disappointing fifth-place finish.
Both players are holding off on their contract renewals until they see firm evidence that the club are prepared to compete with rivals for the best players, although Hazard yesterday gave his strongest hint yet that he was looking to the future at Stamford Bridge.
“We have a lot of top players who are used to winning trophies. We’ll be ready next season,” Hazard told The London Evening Standard. “I think all of the players and the club want one thing and that’s to win the title. Of course, we will see if we can bring in some new players. But we will be focused on winning the title.”
Lewandowski was the subject of a public reminder last June from Bayern that he had a contract until 2021, with the club clearly suggesting that they were aware a market was being created for the striker.
Real Madrid have always been considered the first in the queue for the highly-rated Poland international but in the past two years the Champions League finalists have had to sell players in order to stay in profit and it is likely that they would have to do the same again to buy Lewandowski.
Morata is now represented by Pini Zahavi, the Israeli agent who was such a key player in the acquisition of Roman Abramovich’s first Premier League-winning Chelsea team in the midpoint of the last decade.
Bayern were robust in seeing off interest in the player last summer and he finished top of the Bundesliga goalscorers with 29 goals – almost twice as many as any other player in the league.
The stand-off with Conte and his assistants continues this week with the compensation bill expected to top £10 million if Chelsea wish to move on the Italian and his sizeable entourage form the last year of his contract. As well as his brother Gianluca, Conte has built up an extensive group of coaches assistants, analysts and nutritionists.
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, a trip to Old Trafford to watch Man United take on Liverpool in the Premier League, tickets to Ireland's home games in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.