Chelsea are preparing to move for Christopher Nkunku next summer after it emerged they conducted an initial medical check on the RB Leipzig forward during the last transfer window.
Nkunku, whose contract is believed to contain a £52.8m release clause, is understood to have undergone the tests with a member of Chelsea’s medical staff present. The 24-year-old is expected to leave Leipzig at the end of the season and Chelsea are attempting to jump to the head of the queue.
Chelsea are keen to improve their forward options despite spending big on Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer. Nkunku scored 35 goals last season and has started this campaign by scoring six times in 11 games. There could be fierce competition for the France international, who has also been linked with Paris Saint-Germain. Nkunku can play in a variety of positions across the front line and his versatility would be appealing to Graham Potter.
Chelsea did business with Leipzig in the summer, selling the Germany striker Timo Werner back to the Bundesliga side. They also made an unsuccessful attempt to sign the Croatia centre-back Josko Gvardiol, who could be a target for Potter next year.
Chelsea are one of the major clubs looking to enter the hotly contested race to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. However Liverpool and Real Madrid are currently believed to have a better chance of buying the England midfielder. Manchester City and Manchester United are also interested in the 19-year-old, who sparkled during England’s 3-3 draw with Germany.
As well as trying to plan for next summer Chelsea are looking to make changes to their infrastructure. They hope to appoint a sporting director and technical director soon. Leipzig’s Christopher Vivell and Brighton’s Paul Winstanley have emerged as candidates for the technical director role.
Chelsea had hoped to appoint RB Salzburg’s Christoph Freund as their sporting director, only for the move to break down. They have since held talks with Tim Steidten but it is unclear whether the German wants to leave Bayer Leverkusen. There is also interest in Leeds’s Victor Orta and they have been linked with Atalanta’s Lee Congerton.
Jesse Marsch, the Leeds manager, has revealed that he and Angus Kinnear, the chief executive, recently went out to dinner with Orta and spent the evening endeavouring to persuade their director of football to remain at Elland Road.
“[We] talked very openly about it,” Marsch said of Chelsea’s interest. “It was a little bit of a funny conversation because, before I came here, I basically made Victor promise that he was going to stay here with me. But I said: ‘Obviously if you get an opportunity to go to a place like Chelsea you have to consider it.’ In the end, he has to make a decision that’s best for him and his family.” Marsch appears quietly confident Orta will elect to stay.
Potter refused to comment on Nkunku. Chelsea’s manager, who takes charge of his first league game at Crystal Palace on Saturday, said that being appointed by the club would not make him a different person.
“I sincerely hope not would be my answer to that instinctively,” the former Brighton manager said. “If you ever have any success or you’re trying to do anything you have to be true to yourself and I’m not saying I’m right or wrong or anything like that, it’s more that I have to be me and part of me is a little bit of self-deprecation.
“I’m intelligent enough to know that I started off in the bottom tier, below the bottom tier and after a process of trial and error and a lot of hard work and a lot of luck and help from other people I’ve got to this point. That’s quite a fantastic achievement and something I’m really proud of but at the same time I’m a human being and certainly not perfect and doesn’t think that I’ve cracked anything, doesn’t mean that I’ve got all the answers.
“I know I’m on a process of carrying on that development, carrying on that journey of trying to improve myself because ultimately if you want players to do the same thing I think you have to role model that behaviour as well.”