Chelsea in control for key target this summer with rival not serious

The Ben Jacobs column was exclusively published at Si & Dan Talk Chelsea on Monday!

It feels like a big week for Chelsea, regarding both Mason Mount and their pursuit of Moises Caicedo as well.

If Mason Mount is to leave Chelsea, then ideally the club would like it done before the end of the month so they can put the transfer on this financial year.

It’s been difficult for Mason Mount, and we’re hearing all kinds of stories and sides. We mustn’t forget the reality, which is that Mason Mount has been Chelsea through and through since he was a kid, and a fantastic player for the football club. Whether he stays or goes, and regardless of last season’s dip in form, that will remain the case.

At the time I’m writing this, Manchester United haven’t walked away, but they’re not going to overpay. And this has always been the case. As I exclusively revealed six weeks ago, Manchester United’s top-end valuation has always been £60m. So now we need to wait and see whether or not the sides can find some kind of compromise. But Manchester United are clear, they will only sign Mount on their terms and won’t meet Chelsea’s £58+7m counter. I still think there is a high likelihood a transfer gets done.

It is not true Bayern have entered the race for Mount at this point either. And I don’t see Manchester United seriously turning their attention to Moises Caicedo despite a historical interest. Even if they wanted him, it’s not a priority position and the fee will likely prove too high for them. It’s all games and the situation should be a whole lot clearer by the end of this week.

With Caicedo, Chelsea still feel that they’re in control, and that Caicedo is keen on joining. Personal terms are close. And although you’ll hear figures of £100m+ (and some even suggesting as high as £120m), my understanding still remains that the fee for Caicedo will be closer to £70+10m.

Brighton will be tough to negotiate with, and the structure of any deal will be as important as the number – much like when Chelsea signed Wesley Fofana from Leicester. But Chelsea are clearly aiming for much lower than £100m. Their rejected £60m bid from a few weeks back tells you they don’t think it’s going to take a fee that high.

Ultimately, Brighton promised Caicedo he could go this summer for a fair offer, and he wouldn’t have signed a new deal if he didn’t trust they would be fully open to a sale. So Caicedo is Chelsea’s top incoming priority right now – far more so than Romeo Lavia. Chelsea haven’t advanced anything yet with Southampton. It’s really more Liverpool moving.

Elsewhere, all the Saudi deals all on track. Kalidou Koulibaly is done and has been announced by Al-Hilal. Edouard Mendy’s move to Al-Ahli will be confirmed next. And Hakim Ziyech’s switch to Al-Nassr should be completed by Tuesday and announced at some point this week or by early next at the very latest.

A lot of attention has been drawn to these transfers and how fast they have happened. But the reality is Chelsea can’t put them on the books for this financial year – only from July 1 because they are not domestic deals.

It’s true that Clearlake (and Cain as well, which is another Todd Boehly company) have an excellent relationship with PIF, but any suggestion of ‘special’ (key word) favours to Chelsea is wide of the mark.

The fees for Koulibaly (€20m), Mendy (€18m) and Ziyech (€10m) come to less than the €55m Al-Hilal paid Wolves for Ruben Neves.

It’s true, the wages paid to all three are high, but this is again the case with every big-name Saudi target. Their wages are usually doubled, tripled or better. So Chelsea have kind of hit the outgoings jackpot, but there’s nothing atypical about the deals compared to every other high-profile Saudi target this summer.

Chelsea hugely benefit from getting rid of their high earners, and in bulk because PIF represent four clubs allowing a lot of transfers to be done fast. It’s good business all around – much like Kai Havertz’s move to Arsenal.

If Havertz had gone to Saudi for up to £67.5m we’d have probably heard all kinds of conspiracy theories about Clearlake-PIF ‘collusion’, but because it’s Arsenal paying, no one has said a word, when in fact the best fee Chelsea have received to date is from that deal.

And then with N’Golo Kante, Chelsea wanted him to stay and he ended up joining Al-Ittihad on a free transfer, so the club didn’t get the outcome they wanted there either.

We must absolutely put scrutiny on all these Saudi deals, but I am yet to see any evidence Chelsea are somehow getting special deals. It would be a bit ridiculous if Newcastle’s majority owner was looking to do Chelsea favours.

Finally, I want to touch on the multi-club model, which was always expected to start in the second half of this year. BlueCo, the owners of Chelsea, have purchased pretty much 100% of Strasbourg. France was always a huge priority. A deal was agreed about a week ago, and prior to that Marc Keller, who will remain on as president, had visited Cobham.

Prior to the announcement, Behdad Eghbali and Laurence Stewart were in Strasbourg. And it will be interesting with Stewart to see if he focuses on the multi-club model. His original remit was ‘global’ prior to being appointed a co-sporting director.

BlueCo paid around €75m and it was seen as important that Keller stayed on. He’ll remain at least until 2024 when he’s expected to become the new France Football Federation president. Sources indicate a deal may not have been possible without Keller. He is trusted by the fanbase, and the previous shareholders, to run the club and oversee Strasbourg’s stadium renovation.

Last week felt like quite a frantic and exciting week for Chelsea – almost like a deadline day. And now things should calm and the focus will turn to pre-season.

It’s very clear that for all of the disappointment of last season, things are starting to take shape. The funny thing is for all of the talk of ins and outs, and money and brand growth and sponsorship and multi-club movement, calmness and chemistry are the two buzzwords. If Chelsea get both in their squad and on the field they’ll stand a great chance of being back in the top-four next season.

Ben Jacobs

Chelsea News