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Transfer Watch: Chelsea sign Juventus center-back target Kalidou Koulibaly; Bayern Munich still on track for Matthijs de Ligt?

The first domino to fall.

Kalidou Koulibaly closes down Josip Stanišić during last July’s preseason match between Bayern and Napoli
A clash of defenders
Photo by SSC NAPOLI/SSC NAPOLI via Getty Images

We’re paying close attention here to the center-back transfer sweepstakes as Bayern Munich close in on a move for Juventus big man Matthijs de Ligt. While Bayern began negotiations in Turin this week and are expected to ramp up the talks, Chelsea FC’s signing of SSC Napoli legend Kalidou Koulibaly has shaken up both the market of De Ligt — and for his replacement.

Per Fabrizio Romano, Chelsea have finalized terms for the 31-year-old Koulibaly, one of the most esteemed center-backs on the market and an illustrious figure in Serie A, where he’s starred for Napoli since 2014/15.

Chelsea are probably not done at CB, but might be at Koulibaly’s wage profile (which De Ligt would at least meet, if not exceed) and may instead turn to options such as Manchester City’s Nathan Aké or Sevilla’s Jules Koundé — the latter long admired within their scouting ranks. This potentially rolls out the carpet for Matthijs de Ligt to Bayern, only reportedly, that was already the player’s only wish anyway.

From the Juventus side, this complicates matters slightly. Koulibaly was a rumored target and would have been a terrific solution to replace De Ligt while costing several tens of millions fewer euros. If they’re looking to go raid Ajax again (whence De Ligt had come), they might be out of luck as well, as Manchester United are closing in on one of the currently coveted Ajax pair:

Previous reports have suggested that Ajax would not sell both Lisandro Martinez and Jurrien Timber; the latter at one time suggested to be a Bayern possibility. So the field of potential replacements is thinning for Juventus, who are now in the mix along with a host of other teams, including Inter Milan, for another former Bayern target — Gleison Bremer.

What happens if Juventus miss out on all the top names? It’s hard to say. One thought is that this could spur them to be less compromising in negotiations with the Bavarians — they’ll need the cash to splash on a replacement and can’t afford to not have any.

On the other hand, Juventus are in a weird place as a club. De Ligt’s wages are a problem for them and with two years on his deal, this is the best time to cash in and recoup, at least in part, the massive €75m + €10.5m outlay committed for him in 2019. And are they in “win now” mode, or rebuilding? It’s hard to tell. Either way, with the player itching to leave, this has to be a tremendously disappointing return for Juve on one of the biggest center-back transfers in history.

For what it’s worth, Transfermarkt currently rates a Bayern move for De Ligt as an “85%” possibility. And with the clock ticking down to the start of preseason tours, action might come sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.

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