Romeo Lavia, Khephren Thuram & the five midfielders Chelsea could target as an alternative to £100m Moises Caicedo

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Brighton are refusing to budge on their nine-figure valuation of the Ecuador dynamo, so the Blues may need to look elsewhere

Chelsea have a significant decision to make in the final month of the transfer window; with a gaping void in their midfield following the departures of N'Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, among others, they must choose whether or not to cough up £100 million ($128.5m) for Moises Caicedo or, finally, concede defeat in the pursuit of their primary target for another window.

The Blues' latest offer of £80m ($102.5m) was immediately knocked back by Brighton, who have remained firm on their valuation since the outset in negotiations and will command at least £20m more for the outstanding 21-year-old.

If Chelsea are unwilling to stretch that little bit further, the quandary facing them is whether the alternative options would elevate the midfield to anything like the same extent as Caicedo, who seems destined to become a top-level No.6.

Nevertheless, here are the defensive midfielders Chelsea could turn to if Brighton's dynamo drifts out of their reach...

  1. Romeo Lavia (Southampton)
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    Romeo Lavia (Southampton)

    If Caicedo moves out of reach, the man who will likely move to the top of Chelsea's defensive midfield shortlist is Romeo Lavia. The Belgian was outstanding despite relegation with Southampton last season, and is certain to move on this summer.

    His ability to evade the press, ball-carrying ability and progressive passing make him the archetypal modern No.6, but competition from Liverpool and a steep £50m ($64m) price tag could prove to be stumbling blocks.

  2. Amadou Onana (Everton)
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    Amadou Onana (Everton)

    Everton's Amadou Onana was among the hoard of players linked with Chelsea during the January transfer window after just half a season at Goodison Park, but that chatter has since fallen silent. Should Chelsea remain at loggerheads with Brighton over their valuation of Caicedo, then Onana will likely come back into consideration in the final month of the transfer window.

    The 21-year-old would likely cost about half as much, and he has demonstrated that he possesses the technical ability and physicality to succeed in the Premier League.

  3. Khephren Thuram (Nice)
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    Khephren Thuram (Nice)

    The embodiment of the old adage 'good feet for a big man', Khephren Thuram - son of France great Lilian - has been heavily linked with a move away from Nice the summer following a breakout campaign in Ligue 1.

    Although his passing isn't quite at Caicedo's level, Thuram is adept with the ball at his feet and progressing play, and his rangy 6'4 frame means he is able to cover plenty of ground, and fast. Though he would be a less defensive option, he excels at reading the game and making timely interventions.

  4. Manu Kone (Borussia Monchengladbach)
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    Manu Kone (Borussia Monchengladbach)

    Another young Frenchman who shone in 2022-23, Thuram's Under-21 international team-mate has become a key figure for Borussia Monchengladbach over the past two seasons.

    The 22-year-old Frenchman is similarly adept in possession and is very comfortable carrying the ball of trouble and picking a pass. He also has that added physicality that would serve him well in the Premier League, often using his 6'1 frame to protect the ball. Another player who is also linked with Liverpool, a knee injury suffered at the U21 Euros could also be problematic.

  5. Joao Palhinha (Fulham)
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    Joao Palhinha (Fulham)

    Chelsea will be cursing the fact that it was their neighbours Fulham and not they who made a shrewd £20m ($25.6m) move for Joao Palhinha last summer. The midfield destroyer was one of the signings of the 2022-23 season, with his style perfectly suited to the Premier League.

    Chelsea could try to lure him across west London, but a £60m ($76.7m) price tag, a serious shoulder injury and competition from Liverpool (again) complicates matters. At 28, he also doesn't fit within the age profile of their recent signings.