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Chelsea are set to make their first significant signing of the summer with Antonio Rudiger joining the club after completing a medical on Tuesday.
A fee around £34 million including bonus payments has been agreed with Roma and Conte finally gets the centre-half he has coveted for two consecutive summers.
The Italian’s first summer in charge at Stamford Bridge was a successful one with N’Golo Kante arriving early alongside Michy Batshuayi before Marcos Alonso and David Luiz both signed for the club on deadline day.
Top of Conte’s wishlist
However, prior to Luiz’s arrival it was in fact the 24-year-old German who was at the top of Conte’s list as Chelsea attempted to prise him from Roma a year ago only for an injury to curtail such a move.
Conte was overseeing Italy’s Euro 2016 campaign whilst those in power at Stamford Bridge attempted to secure signings that had been previously agreed with the coach.
It is understood that Roma were far less receptive to a sale last summer anyway but as soon as the German tore his cruciate ligament it was clear a deal was off.
This summer however things are completely different with Monchi now controlling Roma’s transfer business and it is clear the former Sevilla Director of Football is intent on bringing in as much money as possible and then reinvesting it sensibly.
So far Leandro Paredes and Mohamed Salah have departed for a combined £54 million whilst it is expected there could well be a deal done for Kostas Manolas later in the window after his switch to Zenit fell through.
Chelsea’s pursuit of Rudiger has thus been far simpler than anybody could have imagined a year ago with a fee agreed with the Italian club fairly quickly all whilst the player himself was representing Germany at the Confederations Cup.
He recovered spectacularly from his injury and had his best season in the Italian capital where he regularly outshone his Greek defensive partner. This was rather surprising given just how highly thought of Manolas was around Europe.
Rudiger’s speed is eye-catching but his defensive brain is what really stands out.
He is what many English teams have been searching for over the course of the past three years with his ability to sniff out danger and anticipate situations merely aided by his physical assets, rather than being dependent on them, as has been the case with Eliaquim Mangala to name just one.
Sensible move age and quality-wise
Conte is eager to boost the depth and quality of his defensive line as Chelsea return to continental competition after a year away; however it must also be recognised that the Blues’ defence is ageing.
Cesar Azpilicueta had an outstanding year at centre-half but Rudiger will be a regular starter at the expense of one of last season’s first-choice defenders.
It is also a move that makes fiscal sense for the modern, self-sufficient Chelsea that no longer gets regular handouts from Roman Abramovich.
Virgil van Dijk was seen as the top defensive target for all three of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City this summer but Southampton’s non-negotiable £60 million price tag has put all potential suitors off for now.
At just over half that price a deal for the German international makes clear sense, especially when Chelsea are planning to restructure other areas of their team.
Romelu Lukaku could cost the club upwards of £85 million should a deal be eventually struck with Everton with it clear the Belgian striker is desperate for a move back to his former team.
Other moves on the horizon
Tiemoue Bakayoko is also set to arrive for a fee believed to be around £35 million although the countless delays in relation to this deal has left people twitchy to say the least.
Antonio Conte would love Alex Sandro to join this summer and whilst Juventus are understood to believe a fee just above £60 million to be acceptable, the Italian giants are set to offer the Brazilian one last olive branch in the form of a contract extension on significantly improved terms.
Should a move go through it is likely the Blues will put Nemanja Matic on the market at £40 million to help balance the window’s spend with Manchester United the only really interested party.
Excellent addition to Chelsea’s backline
Chelsea strolled to the Premier League title with a style of football that was attractive in parts but built on a strong defence.
Antonio Rudiger will only add to the quality within that defensive unit and given he is a player that Conte has long admired it is likely that the German will be handed a sizably important role at Chelsea upon the official confirmation of his arrival.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
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