Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams is in a strange situation with his contract and a potential free transfer away in the summer, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.
Speaking exclusively to CaughtOffside for his Daily Briefing column, Romano explained that Chelsea had an interest in Williams in the summer, secretly targeting him as an alternative to Cole Palmer.
However, when it became apparent that Manchester City would give the green light for Palmer to leave, Chelsea signed him as their priority instead, so it remains to be seen if they’d still have an interest in Williams.
Still, the Spain international is heading towards being a free agent at the end of this season, so there could be an opportunity for the Blues, while Romano has also acknowledged links with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao are yet to offer Williams a new deal, so Chelsea and other clubs might want to keep an eye on the 21-year-old as a bargain opportunity next summer.
“We saw some interesting words from the agent of Nico Williams. The Athletic Bilbao star is one of the most talented wingers around Europe with his pace and his ability to score and assist, and we’ve unsurprisingly seen him linked with some big clubs because I think he’s a really underrated talent with big potential,” Romano said.
“So what’s the situation? His agent Felix Tainta has made it clear that his client doesn’t want to leave on a free transfer, but at the moment they are yet to receive a contract proposal from Athletic Bilbao.
“It’s November, almost December, and nothing is agreed, so it’s a dangerous situation for Athletic and they have to be fast. Williams is out of contract at the end of the season and in January he can agree a deal for next season as a free agent. The idea was to continue on a long-term contract with a release clause of €50m, so let’s see what happens there.”
He added: “From what I’m hearing Real Madrid and Barcelona have sent their scouts to follow the player, but as of yet no one has sent a formal proposal – they know his priority is to stay at Athletic, so let’s see what happens there.
“Chelsea also had Williams on their list in the summer – their priority target was Cole Palmer, but when he was not yet available and not yet given the green light from Manchester City, Williams was one of the players they secretly considered at the club. Then nothing happened because Chelsea wanted to go for Palmer and they are very happy.
“Aston Villa could be another name to watch – Unai Emery would love to have him, but in the summer it was impossible to make it happen. Let’s see if his contract situation means it’s a different story next summer, but it is important to remember that he doesn’t want to betray Athletic by leaving on a free. So it’s up to the club and their proposal now.”