Chelsea have been linked with a summer transfer move for Brighton left-back Marc Cucurella. But although his favoured position is out wide, his experience at centre-back means he could be used as a surprise replacement for Antonio Rudiger at Stamford Bridge too.
Rudiger reportedly completed his move to Real Madrid on Tuesday afternoon and is due to join Carlo Ancelotti’s side at the end of the season with an announcement expected after the Champions League final. Chelsea had been negotiating a new contract with the German but sanctions placed against Roman Abramovich and the subsequent special licence the club have been working under meant discussions were halted.
A number of prominent centre-backs have since been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge since as Thomas Tuchel prepares for a defensive rebuild. These include Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and Juventus ace Matthijs De Ligt but a surprising alternative could be emerging in the form of Cucurella.
A report from Goal on Tuesday indicated that Chelsea remained interested in the Spaniard, who made the move to Brighton from Barcelona during the summer transfer window. In the time since he has started every Premier League match, finding the back of the net in the Seagulls recent 4-0 win over Manchester United too.
While his energy and attacking intent have seen him impress on the left-hand side, he has also caught the eye when used as a centre-back, as he has been on a number of occasions, helping to keep clean sheets against Tottenham, Norwich and Wolves in the process.
“It’s strange, I have never played at centre-back before,” he told Brighton’s official website after the clash with Spurs. “Sometimes I have played there in the last few minutes when we’ve been losing, but I have never started there and one day the gaffer in the training explained to me that he wants me to play there and I said, “yeah, it’s good.” Sometimes I’m worried when the team attack because I need to stay at the back.
“The gaffer says it’s a good position for me because with the ball I look for good passes and I help the centre-backs in the build-ups. I like playing there. Sometimes when the team attack I am a little bit worried because I need the stay at the back but it’s fun.”
But landing Cucurella is unlikely to be easy. Prying Brighton’s prized defensive assets from the grips of Graham Potter and co is never easy, with Arsenal made to pay £50 million in the summer for the services of Ben White.
Cucurella is a clear favourite of Potter’s as well, with the manager recently saying of the 23-year-old: “He’s been really important for us since he’s come here. A really infectious personality so the lads all love him. Great character and bubbly personality around the club and then on the pitch he brings energy and quality.
“He’s grown up at Barcelona so he knows how to play football and now he’s desperate to have an impact in the Premier League and we are so happy with him. Obviously the more players you have the more it helps the team.”