Chelsea agree Carney Chukwuemeka deal and interested in Walker-Peters

Chelsea have moved quickly to agree a deal with Aston Villa for Carney Chukwuemeka, believed to be worth up to £20m, and are interested in signing Southampton’s Kyle Walker‑Peters, with Thomas Tuchel looking to bring in a right‑sided defender to compete with Reece James.

Chukwuemeka, 18, is one of the most highly rated prospects in England and there has been a scramble for his services since he made clear to Villa last November that he would not sign a new contract – to replace one scheduled to expire next June.

The midfielder, who was central to England’s victory at the European Under-19 Championship last month, has been discussed by most of the top clubs in England and Germany although, up until the middle of last week, Barcelona and Milan were leading the race for him.

Barça had offered a package worth a potential €15m (£12.5m) to Villa, albeit heavily incentivised, and Milan had put forward something similar. But Chelsea made contact with Villa last Friday and, with their co‑owner Todd Boehly negotiating directly with Villa’s chief executive, Christian Purslow, they reached agreement on an initial fee of £10m with a further £10m in potential add-ons.

Chukwuemeka, who has made 14 Premier League appearances for Villa – two in the starting XI – will now try to agree personal terms with Chelsea. Villa and Chelsea released a joint statement at 5.30pm BSTto confirm they had reached an agreement on the fee; it is unusual for this to happen before the player has finalised terms.

The likely arrival of Chukwuemeka follows Chelsea moving to buy the exciting 18-year-old midfielder Omari Hutchinson from Arsenal and the 18-year-old American goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina from Chicago Fire. There is a clear focus on bringing in more quality young players. Chelsea are targeting the 16-year-old Palmeiras forward Endrick, who is being courted by several of Europe’s biggest sides. They have also made two bids for Internazionale’s 19‑year‑old midfield prodigy Cesare Casadei.

Boehly is determined to back Tuchel. Chelsea are giving serious consideration to bidding for the Leicester centre-back Wesley Fofana, are close to signing the Brighton defender Marc Cucurella for £50m and have held multiple discussions about Walker-Peters, who has impressed since joining Southampton from Tottenham in January 2020. Inter’s Denzel Dumfries is another option at right-back.

It is understood a bid of about £35m could be enough to buy Walker-Peters, though there have been suggestions Southampton will ask for more than £40m for the England international. The 25-year-old, who can operate on both flanks, is a key player for Southampton. He is strong on the ball and would lessen Tuchel’s dependence on James, who was sorely missed while out with a long‑term hamstring injury last season. Manchester United have also been linked with Walker-Peters.

Chelsea’s need for additions at the back is plain. They were hit with a crisis in central defence after losing Andreas Christensen to Barcelona and Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid. They responded by signing Kalidou Koulibaly but have failed with an attempt to take Nathan Aké from Manchester City, missed out to Barça on Jules Koundé and have had little luck with attempts to buy Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig and Presnel Kimpembe from Paris Saint-Germain.

The outlook will be much brighter if Chelsea sign Cucurella. Tuchel wants a left-footed defender and the intention is not only for the Spaniard to provide quality competition for Ben Chilwell at left wing-back. Chelsea also see Cucurella, who was previously targeted by City, as a possible candidate for the left centre-back position.

Leicester value Fofana at £85m and have insisted he is not for sale, but Chelsea want to test that stance. There have been suggestions the 21-year-old wants to move to Stamford Bridge.

The complication around any deal is Fofana has five years on his contract, giving Leicester plenty of leverage. One possibility is that Chelsea try to sweeten the deal by giving Leicester the chance to sign Levi Colwill. Brighton are also interested in the highly rated 19-year-old centre-back.

The arrival of defensive reinforcements could allow more defenders to leave Chelsea. Signing Cucurella and a right-sided defender could pave the way for Marcos Alonso and César Azpilicueta to complete moves to Barcelona. Chelsea are also prepared to loan out Malang Sarr. The French centre-back has been targeted by Fulham, but it is understood that Monaco are leading the race to sign him.

Chelsea could also need a No 2 goalkeeper if they send Kepa Arrizabalaga on loan to Napoli. They are in talks over moving Timo Werner to RB Leipzig, who would be able to sign their former striker only if he takes a pay cut.