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Chelsea face competition for highly rated star as Italian club arrives on the scene

Chelsea will need to fend off an Italian club as they aim to bring in a new defender this winter, according to reports.

The Blues have four players who are out of contract come the end of the season. They are Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva.

Rudiger is the most likely to leave as Real Madrid are preparing to enter negotiations on January 1.

Christensen is finally closing in on a new contract after talks broke down on several occasions throughout the year.

Azpilicueta and Silva, meanwhile, are expected to extend their spells at Stanford Bridge, at least for another campaign.

Rudiger’s impending exit would leave a massive hole in Thomas Tuchel’s backline. Chelsea are doing some serious scouting as part of their bid to find his replacement.

Jules Kounde and Matthijs de Ligt are options. However, they will both cost significant fees.

A cheaper alternative is highly rated Fenerbahce centre-back Attila Szalai. He is emerging into one of the best defenders in Turkey.

The 23-year-old has also been nicknamed ‘the Hungarian Virgil van Dijk’ thanks to his imposing presence.

Chelsea were thought to be closing in on Szalai’s signature. But those reports were pushed back by a statement from the Turkish giants. It read: “The allegations regarding the transfer of our player Attila Szalai, which have been made public in the last few days, based on foreign press and social media, do not reflect the truth.

“Our club has not made any transfer negotiations regarding our successful football player Attila Szalai. Our player continues his work completely concentrating on the goals of our team. We present it to the public.”

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Transfer sees Serie A club join race

But Football Italia, citing reports in Italy, claim Chelsea are still on the player’s trail. They reckon Szalai has all the attributes to succeed in west London.

The report also names a rival for his services – Napoli. They need a new centre-half following Kostas Manolas’ transfer to Olympiakos.

Szalai is now a ‘primary target’ for Luciano Spalletti’s team, which should set up an exciting transfer race as we head into the new year.

Szalai made three appearances for Hungary as they frustrated France and Germany at Euro 2020. However, the underdogs could not get out of Group F.

Chelsea man remains on Lazio wish list

Meanwhile, Spanish source Sport state Kepa Arrizabalaga is Lazio’s favoured option in their bid to improve the goalkeeping position.

The Italian side, managed by former Blues boss Maurizio Sarri, need a new shot-stopper to challenge Thomas Strakosha.

They are hoping to sign Arrizabalaga on loan this winter. But a deal rests on Chelsea’s willingness to let him leave. They could turn to the Spaniard once Edouard Mendy travels to the Africa Cup of Nations to represent Senegal.

Arrizabalaga cost £71.6m when joining Chelsea from Athletic Bilbao in 2018. He is still the most expensive goalkeeper of all time.

READ MORE: Chelsea set for fresh talks over top-class Liverpool target with £50m fee touted

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