Blues make progress in move for Serie A defender.
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Chelsea are close to reaching an agreement with AS Roma for the signing of in-demand Moroccan defender Mehdi Benatia, with youngster Kurt Zouma set to move in the other direction on a season-long loan.
The Blues have been strongly linked with Benatia at several points this summer, with Jose Mourinho keen to bring in a new signing at the back after selling David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain and missing out to rivals Manchester City for the signing of Eliaquim Mangala, who was confirmed as a new arrival at the Etihad Stadium today.
Benatia is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in Europe at the moment, having just enjoyed a superb season at the Stadio Olimpico, helping Rudi Garcia’s side to the best defensive record in the Italian top flight as they finished runners-up to Juventus.
The 27-year-old has also been strongly linked with the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona, though Chelsea are now hoping to pounce for him as they have learned that Roma may be open to taking Zouma on loan as part of the deal, with Garcia a big fan of the promising French youngster.
The 19-year-old is an outstanding defensive prospect, but may not be quite ready to go into Chelsea’s starting lineup on a regular basis this season, though Mourinho would be keen for him to gain valuable first-team experience elsewhere.
Chelsea have exploited the loan market well in recent times, sending the likes of Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku out on temporary moves to either give them the playing time they need to develop before becoming first choice, or to raise their profile and help sell them on for a profit.
Zouma could gain similar experience and exposure as Benatia’s replacement at Roma, though he has also attracted interest from Sunderland this summer and may benefit more from playing regularly in the Premier League.
This news will come as another blow for Manchester United in the transfer market, with Benatia one of Louis van Gaal’s top targets to come in in defence, though he will now likely switch his attention to Borussia Dortmund and Germany star Mats Hummels instead.
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