Chelsea have confirmed the signing of Swiss midfielder Denis Zakaria from Juventus on a season-long loan.
While Chelsea have spent most of the summer window focusing on their defence while also looking to sign a striker, the midfield went untouched and problems started to arise. The Blues had spent the final day of the summer transfer window heavily linked with a move for a midfielder, and Ajax’s Edson Alvarez was the man many thought would be filling the slot in Thomas Tuchel’s squad.
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Matters regarding Alvarez made a positive start to the day (for Chelsea fans) with reports saying he had not turned up for Ajax training and was actively pushing for a move, though the Mexican was firmly told that he would not be going anywhere.
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Desperate to sign a midfielder, Chelsea’s attention quickly turned to Juventus’ Zakaria, having also failed in approaches for Ibrahim Sangare from PSV. Zakaria only joined Juventus from Borussia Monchengladbach in January but hasn’t had the best of times in Serie A, playing 11 times in the league struggling with injury issues.
But for Chelsea the loan signing of Zakaria, with a reported option to buy for £30m, provides a risk-free option that will allow them to bolster their defensive midfield ranks with a player who showed a lot of quality in the Bundesliga. During his four-and-a-half-year stay in the Bundesliga, Zakaria made 216 tackles at an average of 2.15 per 90 minutes, but also had a pass accuracy of 87.57% and attempted 8.42 final third passes per 90.
In his younger days at Gladbach, Zakaria drew several extremely favourable comparisons. “At his age, I was earning my first stripes for Borussia,” German midfield legend Lothar Matthaus is reported to have said while watching Zakaria break through in 2017, adding: “He reminds me of Toni Kroos at that age.”
Around about the same time, Zakaria himself explained to the Bundesliga website: “I’ve been compared to [Patrick] Vieira and [Paul] Pogba – two players I really respect and, in a way, see as role models. When I watch videos of them, I think I’d like to play that way.”
The loan deal will also allow Chelsea to still go for the likes of Alvarez and Sangare in the future without being tied down to a move for Zakaria, especially now knowing of the Ajax midfielder’s desire to join the Blues.
Todd Boehly, Chelsea chairman, said: “Denis is a talented midfielder with lots of quality and skill. He will add depth and range to our squad this season, and we are looking forward to watching him play in Chelsea blue.”