Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said he understands the interest in his side’s summer transfer plans but refused to be drawn on speculation linking the club with moves for Erling Haaland and Dayot Upamecano.
Chelsea are keeping tabs on Haaland amid rumours Borussia Dortmund could be ready to cash in on the striker at the end of this season. Haaland has a release clause in his contract worth £63 million which does not become active until 2022.
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The 20-year-old would command a fee in excess of £100m this year — a sum which has not put off potential suitors including Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool. Chelsea are also keeping tabs on Bayern Munich defender David Alaba but Real Madrid are favourites for his signature.
RB Leipzig’s Upamecano has emerged as a possible alternative in defence and, asked about whether he expected Chelsea to pursue deals for Haaland and the France international, Tuchel said: “I can understand your interest in that question and I can understand the interest of every fan and supporter to talk about these subjects.
“I am also always a fan and interested in what is going on. But now is February. There is a long way to go. As you know me or maybe get to know me better, I will not talk about other players publicly when they are under contract.
“This is the kind of respect we show to them but show first of all to our players. We think about our central defenders and our strikers first and we push them to the limits. Everything else will be decided behind closed doors.”
Tuchel said N’Golo Kante will make his first start since Jan. 3 in Thursday’s FA Cup fifth round tie at Championship side Barnsley after overcoming hamstring problems to make two substitute appearances against Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield United.
Kante has been repeatedly linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge but the former Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain coach said: “This is very easy because I think N’Golo fits into every manager’s plans on the planet.
“I was desperate to have him in my teams. He is a Chelsea player, a big Chelsea player and one of the best midfielders in the world. Now I am so lucky to have him in my squad. I am so lucky that he is back again.
“When you look at his performances coming back from injury — we put him on the pitch against Tottenham with no minutes before which was really difficult — he just did what he always does. He helped everybody around him on the pitch with his support, mentality and his quality.
“And if you see the step that he took between the Tottenham match, OK, in training you didn’t see, but in the 20 minutes against Sheffield was a huge performance when we switched to a three in the midfield.
“This was very important to escape the pressure and be in control of the game again. I am very, very impressed. I know him for many years, we know him very well because we came from a French club, so we were very impressed on television.
“But to see the guy live, to see how he works, how humble he is and what quality he gives to this team, it is a gift to be his coach. I am super happy. He will start tomorrow. For me his best position is a double six. He can play single six but his strength is also to have a kind of freedom in his game.”