Chelsea looked on course for a difficult summer as they attempt to shrink the size of their bloated squad after spending more than €600 million on transfers in the first year of Todd Boehly’s ownership.
The Blues had more than 30 players in their first team at the end of the season and an emphasis was made to new manager Mauricio Pochettino that sales would be the priority in the transfer window, with Chelsea looking to battle against Financial Fair Play constraints.
While the club were gearing up for a tough summer of negotiating sales, Chelsea have been boosted by a sudden influx of interest from Saudi Arabian teams, with the country looking to continue building the reputation of its domestic league after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in December.
Teams in the Saudi Pro League have made staggering offers to high-profile players all across Europe, with Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema among the superstars who have agreed lucrative contracts to move to the division.
Having made bids to a number of free agents, Saudi sides have now focused their attention on other targets and have lined up a host of Chelsea’s deadwood, essentially offering the Blues a windfall of cash for players they may have otherwise struggled to sell.
The link between the Blues and Saudi Arabia has not been without controversy, with rumours suggesting that the PIF, the country’s investment fund which owns Newcastle United, may also have a stake in Clearlake Capital – Boehly’s investment firm which finances Chelsea – however this has been disputed by the club.
Which players are set to leave Chelsea for Saudi Arabia?
Chelsea have already lost N’Golo Kante to Pro League champions Al-Ittihad, with the French midfielder having agreed to a reported €100m three-year deal once his contract at Stamford Bridge expires this summer.
While Chelsea are disappointed to lose a key player for free, the blow has been softened by interest in the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, who will likely move to Al-Hilal for €20m on a reported salary of €25m having only moved to England last summer from Napoli for €38m and being one of the club’s highest earners.
Chelsea look set to raise nearly €50m from the sales of their three fringe players while also saving a significant amount of money in wages, with more of their deadwood still being lined up by Saudi sides.
Winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, who spent last season on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, is another player who has been linked with an exit, although the 22-year-old is less keen on switch to Saudi Arabia despite strong interest.
Elsewhere, Romelu Lukaku is another player who could be set to leave but the Belgian would prefer a return to Inter, where he spent last season on loan, however Al-Ahli are believed to be preparing a huge offer to bring him to Saudi Arabia.