Chelsea target Koundé and Gvardiol after government clears €5bn takeover

Sale of club approved by Premier League on Tuesday but required government approval

Chelsea’s new owners will hand Thomas Tuchel significant funds for signings after the UK government finally approved the £4.25 billion (€5 billion) takeover of the club.

A new era at Stamford Bridge can officially begin after Roman Abramovich agreed to the government’s terms for the sale to a consortium led by Todd Boehly, a part-owner of the LA Dodgers. Boehly’s group is determined to hit the ground running and intends to show Tuchel its ambition is to help Chelsea catch Manchester City and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.

Chelsea, who will prioritise signings in defence before addressing other areas, have been in limbo for three months. They were plunged into uncertainty when Abramovich was hit with sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tuchel has warned that Chelsea, who have been operating under a restrictive licence, will be behind their rivals when the transfer window opens.

But Chelsea can now start to plan their business after the government announced it would issue a licence for the sale and said it was satisfied none of the proceeds would go to Abramovich or any other sanctioned individuals. The takeover was approved by the Premier League on Tuesday and the final step is for Portugal and the European Commission to give approval because Abramovich, the 55-year-old Israeli-Russian oligarch, also has a Portuguese passport.

Chelsea experienced unprecedented success during Abramovich’s 19-year ownership and the approach is likely to be different under Boehly’s leadership. Tuchel has warned they must act decisively. The manager needs to repair his defence after losing Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen to Barcelona, who also want Marcos Alonso and César Azpilicueta. Chelsea’s first signing is expected to be the Sevilla centre back Jules Koundé, who missed out on a move to Stamford Bridge last summer, and they are also interested in RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol.

Koundé, a 23-year-old France international, can play as a right centre back and could be available for £50 million (€58.75 million). Gvardiol, a highly rated 20-year-old Croatian, would be a replacement for Rüdiger because he can play on the left of a back three.

Other names on Chelsea’s shortlist include Villarreal’s Pau Torres and Atlético Madrid’s José María Giménez. They are also huge admirers of Torino’s Gleison Bremer, though Inter Milan are favourites to sign the 25-year-old Brazilian. Tottenham are another possible destination for Bremer.

Tuchel will also look at strengthening his midfield. Conor Gallagher will be given a chance to impress after a successful loan at Crystal Palace but there are doubts over N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho, both of whom are out of contract next year. Jorginho is a target for Juventus.

Chelsea are unlikely to be able to afford West Ham’s £150 million (€176.3 million) asking price for Declan Rice, who is a target for Tuchel, and are set to miss out on Monaco’s Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid.

Much will depend on how much Chelsea can raise through sales. Kepa Arrizabalaga, the No 2 goalkeeper, is available for the right price and Tuchel’s hopes of upgrading his attack could rest on whether buyers are found for Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, who has two years on his deal. Talks will also be held with Romelu Lukaku over the £97.5 million (€114.5 million) forward’s future.

Chelsea’s attack has lacked consistency and Tuchel wants new forwards. He is monitoring Raheem Sterling, who has a year on his deal at Manchester City and could seek a new challenge. Chelsea are also interested in Christopher Nkunku, although it will be hard to convince RB Leipzig to sell the prolific 24-year-old this summer. Lille’s Jonathan David, Benfica’s Darwin Núñez and Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé, who is out of contract, are other targets. Tuchel would love to sign Robert Lewandowski but the Bayern Munich striker wants to join Barcelona.

Chelsea could end up needing to raise money by selling their 20-year-old forward Armando Broja, a key target for West Ham. The owners will look to hand improved contracts to Mason Mount, Reece James and Édouard Mendy.

It remains to be seen whether Bruce Buck, the chairman, and the powerful director Marina Granovskaia remain at the club. They are close to Abramovich and played a key role in the sale, won by Boehly’s group after a fraught process.

The American’s fellow investors include his fellow Dodgers owner Mark Walter, the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, the British property developer Jonathan Goldstein and the US investment firm Clearlake Capital. Boehly will be the controlling owner but Clearlake is taking a majority stake. The Tory peer and Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein and celebrity publicist Barbara Charone will become non-executive directors.

Another task for Boehly will be to upgrade Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s ground has a 42,000 capacity and could stop them from competing financially with their rivals.

The club’s sale will follow a two-step process that will see the initial £2.5 billion (€2.95 billion) go into an escrow account, where it will be held until the UK government is satisfied the funds will go to a charity for victims of the war in Ukraine. Boehly’s group has committed to invest a further £1.75 billion (€2.05 billion) in the club’s infrastructure.

Crucially Abramovich agreed to legally binding guarantees allowing his £1.6 billion (€1.88 billion) loans to Chelsea to go into a frozen account under government control. Mike Penrose, the former Unicef UK executive director, has been asked to run the foundation. The government has been assured the charity will be independent of Abramovich. - Guardian