With clubs seriously looking at signing N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho, there is going to be a rather large gap in midfield.
Matteo Kovačić can fill one spot in the midfield duo, but who goes next to him? Ideally someone with a more defensive game than Kovačić.
Billy Gilmour would be a sound option, but he’s set to be out for a while and with not much depth, Chelsea are going to have to turn to the market.
Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City
The 23-year-old Nigerian international is a defensive monster. He does all the grunt work through the middle of the park you’d expect of a defensive midfielder, combined strong dribbling. Ndidi’s passing is a weak point, though it has improved immensely since joining Leicester.
Ndidi joined the Foxes from Genk in 2017 and has made 120 Premier League appearances. With Premier League experience, there is no question whether or not Ndidi will be able perform at this level. We already know he can.
Ndidi’s current contract with Leicester runs out in 2024, which has him locked away pretty tightly. He is valued at around £33 million and Leicester would be within their rights to ask for more. But it could well be worth it. The last midfielder that Chelsea signed from Leicester worked out pretty well too.
Saúl – Atlético Madrid
Saúl runs. All over the pitch, with or without the ball, he doesn’t stop running. Put him in the middle of the pitch and watch him go. In his time at Atlético they’ve used him as a right-back, right midfielder, centre back and central midfielder. Wherever he’s played, he’s done well. A proper utility workhorse that would fit into almost any team.
There has been plenty of clubs seeking out the 25-year-old Spaniard’s signature, including Manchester United and Arsenal. This competition only drives his value up, meaning whoever gets him will be paying over his value.
Rúben Neves – Wolves
Neves has been at the heart of Wolves’ midfield since joining in 2017. He reads the play well, wins the ball through intercepts as much as he does tackles and fires audaciously accurate long passes. He’s not shy of a long shot either.
It would be a disservice to put the ‘deep-lying playmaker’ label on Neves. There is more too his game defensively than that. Though it is fun watching him ping long balls out to his wingers.
Neves’ current contract runs out in 2023 and at around £36 million, he is gettable for Chelsea. However, Wolves have to want to sell him. If the price is right, they could be tempted to let the Portuguese midfielder leave.
Declan Rice – West Ham
Rice has already been linked to Chelsea over this summer. Signs are looking good too. With plans to sell Jorginho freeing up funds and a spot on the pitch for the 21-year-old. It has been reported though, that Frank Lampard is looking at bringing Rice in as a central defender, rather than a midfielder.
Which rather puts a question mark over him being on this list. But in his 35 appearances for West Ham this season, only one of them has been at the back. So, for now,6h he’s a midfielder.
Having a defensive midfielder like Rice next to Kovačić will allow Kovačić a bit of freedom to push up the field a bit more, though it won’t relieve him of his defensive duties altogether. Which has been a concern this season.
Florian Grillitsch – Hoffenheim
The 24-year-old Austrian is nothing if not consistent. In the 2018/19 season, he made 30 Bundesliga appearances for three assists. The 2019/20 Bundesliga saw him make 31 appearances for three assists.
Grillitsch is a capable passer and dribbler, though his main strength is his ability to win the ball back. He is very much the type of player who sits behind the midfield and does the defensive work, allowing everyone ahead of him on the pitch to move the ball around.
At around £18 million, Grillitsch is the least expensive option on this list. This isn’t to say he is the most limited, so much as he is the least proven at a high level. Depending on how much is made by selling Kanté and/or Jorginho, Grillitsch might be worth getting as well as another midfielder.