Chelsea are Ready to Spend £70m on Wesley Fofana
Chelsea have spent big on revamping their squad this summer, but the most expensive arrival could well be a player described as "the most prodigiously talented young central defender in the world".
The Blues are ready to spend in the region of £70m to take 21-year-old Wesley Fofana from Leicester City, taking their total outlay this window to more than £200m.
"Gutted to lose him but wish Wesley Fofana well," tweeted former Foxes striker Gary Lineker after it was reported a deal was done. "Every player wants to play Champions League football so it's understandable.
"Chelsea fans, you've got the most prodigiously talented young central defender in the world. Yes, I believe he's that good."
So what is it about Fofana that has convinced Chelsea to splash serious cash on a young talent who has only made 37 appearances in the Premier League?
Thomas Tuchel's defence was one of the stingiest in the league after he became Blues boss in January last year, conceding just 17 goals in his first 30 top-flight games.
But they have shipped more than double that - 35 - in the 31 league games since, and Tuchel has had to remodel his backline this summer.
"Chelsea needed a centre-back and would be nowhere near competitive if they didn't get one," said former Blues winger Pat Nevin on BBC Radio 5 Live." Fofana is a very good answer. Chelsea's need has probably put another £10m on his price tag, but Chelsea needed to add."
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With Antonio Rudiger leaving for Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen joining Barcelona, Chelsea were left needing defensive reinforcements but were unable to do business until a consortium led by Todd Boehly completed its takeover.
That was in May, and former Chelsea goalkeeper Rob Green believes a lack of planning has left them "over a barrel" as the deadline approaches.
Fofana would follow Marc Cucurella through the door after the Spaniard's £60m move from Brighton earlier this month.
"They are playing catch-up and have to pay the money," Green told 5 Live. "They will get a great player. He immediately ticks the boxes and is also one of the future."
Chelsea have used Reece James a right-sided centre-back in two of their opening four Premier League games, and Green says the signing of Fofana would allow Tuchel to keep the England full-back in his more natural position.
"Reece James' quality is on the ball," added Green. "Fofana ticks a box for the centre-half position but also strengthens elsewhere as James can go forward."
Fofana joined Leicester two years ago in a deal worth up to £36.5m - a hefty outlay for someone who had made only 30 senior appearances for Saint-Etienne.
But he has impressed, playing 38 times in his debut campaign before being voted the club's Young Player of the Season by their supporters.
He would no doubt have been an integral part of Brendan Rodgers' side last term, too, but for a broken leg in pre-season that ruled him out until March.
The France Under-21 international signed a new five-year deal at the King Power Stadium that same month.
But after playing in Leicester's first two league games of this season, he has been left out of the following two and has not been training with the first team recently.
"There's a lot going on behind the scenes, which I understand," said Rodgers earlier this month. "It's a difficult moment for him. He's a good kid. He's been great for us."
Since Fofana's debut, Leicester have won 43.2% of the league games he has featured in, compared with 38.5% of those without him. They have conceded 1.6 goals per game when he has been absent, compared with 1.4 with the defender in the team.
"Wesley Fofana is one of those players Leicester have been so good at finding over the past few years," said BBC Sport's Simon Stone.
"Admittedly, a fee of up to £36m for a 19-year-old indicated the Foxes knew what a talent Fofana could be. Nevertheless, Brendan Rodgers has nurtured him and ensured he is now a very modern central defender - quick, comfortable carrying the ball out of defence and adept at playing in a two-man defensive unit or a three.
"The money has to be reinvested, which is something else Leicester have been good at over the past few years. The issue is, they don't have a lot of time."
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