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What do Abramovich sanctions mean for Rudiger, Azpilicueta and Chelsea's transfer targets?

13:28 GMT 10/03/2022
Antonio Rudiger Chelsea Premier League 2021-22
The Russian's assets have been frozen by the UK government because of his ties to Vladimir Putin, shrouding the club's future in uncertainty

Chelsea have a number of expiring player contracts that could be impacted by the sanctions imposed on club owner Roman Abramovich by the United Kingdom government.

It was announced on Thursday that the 55-year-old has been hit with an asset freeze and travel ban because of his ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is overseeing the ongoing invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Indeed, the UK government released a statement claiming that Abramovich is a "pro-Kremlin oligarch" who has "had a close relationship [with Putin] for decades".

As a result of the sanctions, Abramovich's attempts to sell Chelsea have been thrown into doubt, as they mean that neither he nor the Russian Federation can benefit from the sale.

The day-to-day running of the club will also be immediately affected, while there are also likely to be serious repercussions on the club's transfer activity...

What do the Abramovich sanctions mean for contract renewals?

It has been made clear from publicly released documents that Chelsea will not be able to offer any of their players contract extensions.

In the case of captain Cesar Azpilicueta, whose deal expires this summer, the Blues may be able to find a loophole by using a one-year extension clause that was first revealed by GOAL.

Thursday's news will have hardly affected Andreas Christensen's thinking either, given he was already set to leave this summer, with the Dane on the verge of agreeing a free transfer to Barcelona - even though Bayern Munich are still trying to persuade the centre-half to move to the Allianz Arena instead.

However, it now seems certain that Antonio Rudiger will also leave for nothing at the end of the season.

The Germany international had been in talks with the club over becoming the highest-paid defender in Chelsea's history and was looking increasingly likely to stay in west London.

However, the negotiations were put on hold even before Abramovich was formally sanctioned, as the Russian had already announced his desire to sell the club.

Now, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus are all likely to renew their interest in Rudiger, who has been free since January to sign a pre-contract agreement with another team.

Could any other players leave?

As things stand, Chelsea would not be in a position to take up their £30 million ($41m) option to buy Saul Niguez, who is on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid.

However, even before the sanctions, it was felt that the Spain international would return to Wanda Metropolitano for next season, with the Blues already planning to integrate Crystal Palace loanee Conor Gallagher into the senior squad instead.

Furthermore, GOAL understands that Atleti were also keen for Saul to return to Madrid, believing that he has benefited from his temporary stay in England.

Outside of the first-team picture, Danny Drinkwater, Charly Musonda, George McEachran, Jake Clarke-Salter, Thierno Ballo and Xavier Simons are all into the final few months of their contracts.

Chelsea have no interest in keeping any of those players bar Simons, who has significant long-term potential having made his first team debut this season under Thomas Tuchel.

However, as first revealed by GOAL, the likes of Watford, Southampton, Brighton and Norwich are all attempting to sign the 19-year-old midfielder.

What does Tuchel think?

Although he has yet to respond to the Abramovich sanctions, manager Thomas Tuchel spoke about how the proposed sale of the club has effectively frozen all talks around contract renewals. 

"Does it have an effect on the players? Maybe," he said ahead of the Premier League trip to Norwich. "We have to ask the players. 

"On the club, I don’t know. Right now, it is still March… We have some time. Of course, there are some situations we want to have resolved but we couldn't. It is not an ideal situation."

What about major summer signings?

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chelsea were set to be very active in the transfer market, with the club planning a 'one in, one out' recruitment policy.

The priority was bringing in new defenders, given so many members of the current backline will be out of contract at the end of the season.

They were looking to sign Sevilla's Jules Kounde or Barcelona defender Ronald Araujo to go straight into the starting line-up, as well as Blackburn's promising young centre-back Ashley Phillips.

However, they had also identified midfield targets, such as West Ham's Declan Rice and Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni.

As it stands, though, Chelsea are not in a position to make any progress whatsoever with any of those proposed deals until the ownership situation at Stamford Bridge is resolved.

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