Chelsea transfer targets: 8 possible January window recruits reviewed

Updated: 24/02/2024

In Maurizio Sarri‘s short time at Chelsea the Italian coach has already brought revolution upon the West London side. The combative counterattacking football of Antonio Conte, which had been familiar to Chelsea fans for an era which started with Jose Mourinho‘s first spell, is gone. ‘Sarriball' is the new philosophy, and it is already reaping success.

The pivot to possession and attacking football brought with it the signings of Jorginho, a favourite playmaker from deep positions from Sarri's Napoli days, and Kepa, a young distributor goalkeeper from Bilbao, as well as Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid. And Robert Green, a veteran backup. Retaining Eden Hazard amid Real Madrid interest was a huge plus point, seeing Thibaut Courtois depart for them regardless was a negative. Not a busy window, but an expensive one targeting their requirements.

With January fast approaching and Chelsea fourth in the table, having recently enjoyed a 2-0 win over the favourites for the title Manchester City, Sarri can make a strong case for further investment. His style of play has benefited the side and a lot of Chelsea's older players look likely to be moved on in the summer. Chelsea are well-placed to secure a Champions League spot and build a side that could challenge for a Premier League title next season, with the appropriate recruitment.

With that in mind, we will now review some names recently linked to Stamford Bridge in the media. If you're not familiar with our scale of likelihood, please see the below key:

Ratings key:

💰 = Not a chance
💰💰💰💰💰 = Basically a done deal

Here are a few targets who Chelsea could plump for in the winter window:


Elseid Hysaj

Elseid Hysaj of SSC Napoli against Frosinone Calcio on 8 December 2018 (Getty Images)

Age: 24

Club: Napoli

Position: Right-back

A former tutee of Sarri's at Napoli, the pacey Albanian wing-back is valued at roughly £45m and tipped to go to Chelsea in the region of this fee by Naples-based journalist Emanuele Cammaroto.

The possible transfer is made all the more likely by the rumours swirling around Victor Moses and Davide Zappacosta, both of whom have been linked with exits for more regular football. Both have seen their playing time diminished under Sarri, who has preferred Cesar Azpilicueta as his starting right-back.

Hysaj is a prize player for Napoli, but speaks highly of Sarri. His agent is vocal about the possibility of transfer activity a contract renewal was put off, and it seems he could certainly be tempted by a Premier League move to reunite with his mentor. The rumours reported suggest preliminary talks have already taken place.

Chelsea fans would also be pleased with some genuine depth at right-back, as well as a top-class successor-in-waiting to the 29-year-old Azpilicueta. He won't come cheap, though, as his current deal runs until 2021.

Verdict: 💰💰💰💰

Milan Skriniar

Age: 23

Club: Inter Milan

Position: Centre-back

The Slovakian defender is composed on the ball and looks like a progressive passer. Sarri will like both of these things and may fancy him as a natural replacement to David Luiz, and Gary Cahill whose contracts are expiring at the end of the season.

At only 23, he's already notched as many caps as he has years, alongside 58 appearances for Inter, and he's voiced his frustration that the San Siro have not raised his wages to match his stature as one of Serie A's finest centre-backs.

Maurizio Sarri could amend this by making a bid for the young man, whose current deal runs until 2022. A rumoured £70m asking price may be a barrier to the would-be long-term signing, especially given Manchester United are in the market for a central defender too.

Verdict: 💰💰


Mateo Kovacic

Age: 24

Club: Real Madrid, on loan at Chelsea

Position: Central midfield

A permanent deal for Kovacic in exchange for Eden Hazard has been discussed for a while now. While the Belgian forward seems to be nudging his way out of Stamford Bridge, the Croatian has found a decent home under Sarri – albeit with strong competition for his place between himself, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley.

He performed very well in the early season, with exceptional passing, dribbling and footwork all tenets of his style much-admired by Sarri. The barriers to a signature would be how much Real Madrid demand for him (or take off Hazard's fee in exchange), and whether Kovacic sees enough game time under Sarri. His lack of minutes in Spain were his main reason for the current loan deal, and it's unlikely he'd want a similar situation to develop at Stamford Bridge.

Verdict: 💰💰💰

Denis Suarez

Denis Suarez of FC Barcelona during the Copa del Rey fourth round (Getty Images)

Age: 24

Club: Barcelona

Position: Central midfield

The young Barcelona star has said he wants more minutes than he receives at the Nou Camp and that he could leave in pursuit of them. Chelsea are linked with his signature, and while the young Spaniard is undeniably talented and attack-minded, Chelsea's midfield roster is very crowded as it stands.

Suarez would have to come at an irresistible price, and a rumoured £45m is probably not that.

Verdict: 💰💰

Thiago Mendes

Age: 26

Club: Lille

Position: Defensive midfield

The Brazilian is technically minded and has a good passing range, but this feels entirely off.

Chelsea already have N'Golo Kante and Jorginho in terms of defensive midfielders, as well as Danny Drinkwater if needs be. He's 26, and although he is playing very well for Lille at the moment his contract runs until 2022, meaning he will be very expensive to lure away.

Lille are running into financial problems and have called on big clubs to buy the in-form player, clearly need a windfall. One club needs this deal, and it isn't Chelsea.

Verdict: 💰


Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic of Dortmund runs with the ball against Club Brugge on 28 November 2018 Getty Images)

Age: 20

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: Right winger

Read more: Christian Pulisic: Chelsea's long-term solution for a future without Eden Hazard?

The Dortmund dribbler has found his regular spot on the right side of the attack contested this season by the emergence of Jadon Sancho, but the American's credentials at the top level are well-established. Having made 100 appearances for the club, Pulisic is already a seasoned and threatening attacker – winner of the USMNT Player of the Year in 2017.

Dortmund's business model is well-established – to blood talented young players, give them experience and sell them on at a very high price to Europe's elite after they've achieved for the club (see Aubameyang, Dembélé, Ginter, Mkhitaryan, Hummels, Gundogan, Gotze). If Chelsea want to add a young attacker with the technical skills to become a world-class talent under Sarri, they need look no further. The issue will be the large fee they will have to pay for his services – helped slightly by the fact his deal expires in the summer of 2020.

He will probably make a big transfer soon – although it may be delayed until the summer.

Verdict: 💰💰💰💰

Callum Wilson

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Age: 26

Club: Bournemouth

Position: Striker

A bit of a left-field one, not to diminish Wilson's achievements during this season and the last for Bournemouth, which earned him an England cap in the last international window.

The 26-year-old has worked his way up the footballing ranks through injury to emerge as a genuine Premier League striker – something Chelsea desperately need given Alvaro Morata's poor form. A pricetag of £35m has been floated, which would not be bad value for an English talent among the top league scorers, as capable of assisting as he is netting.

Wilson doesn't fit the regular bill of a big January Chelsea signing, but it would make a lot of sense to introduce some competition for the striker's spot – and the clamour of the rumour mill is growing around this one.

Verdict: 💰💰💰💰

Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani celebrates against Strasbourg on 5 December 2018 (AFP/Getty Images)

Age: 31

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Position: Striker

The Uruguayan is rumoured to be Sarri's top transfer target this January, and a move to Chelsea might make a lot of sense for all parties. PSG may want to cash in on a forward who will start to decline in coming years, and at the moment a £45m price does not seem ridiculous for either party, given Cavani's track record of goals and assist. Sarri will like his workrate and selflessness, as well as his technical abilities.

For Cavani, it would mean a chance to lead the line and step out of Kylian Mbappé and Neymar's shadows, as well as a chance at a lucrative contract he might not receive in Paris. The only issue would be his age – Chelsea do not commonly offer players over 30 long-term deals. In terms of established 31-year-old strikers, more likely would be Sarri's reported intention to reunite with Napoli frontman Dries Mertens.

Verdict: 💰💰💰


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