Chelsea are facing a battle to keep Cesar Azpilicueta after Barcelona earmarked him as a potential successor to Dani Alves, according to The Telegraph.
Alves has agreed to join Juventus on a three-year contract after claiming life had become "too comfortable" at the Nou Camp. Although Barcelona have Aleix Vidal on the roster already, they will need another right-back to cover for the Chilean.
Barcelona had initially hoped to sign Hector Bellerin from Arsenal and reportedly launched an enquiry towards the Emirates. However, Arsene Wenger knocked back that approach and he is now preparing to offer the Spaniard an improved contract, even though his current deal runs until 2019. Bellerin is also believed to be happy to carry on at the Emirates.
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That has forced Luis Enrique to draw up a list of alternatives and Azpilicueta is on it. The 26-year-old has adapted into a left-back at Stamford Bridge but was originally signed as a right-back and represents Spain in that position.
He remains the club's first-choice left-back despite the challenge of Baba Rahman and is expected to remain an important part of the team once Antonio Conte takes charge. But there are suggestions that the Italian could install a 3-5-2 formation, which he used at Juventus and may not require a player like Azpilicueta.
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Happy at the Bridge
Azplicueta himself has recently suggested he is happy to stay at Chelsea despite the lack of European football next season. He did, however, say that he could see himself leaving for a club like Barcelona.
“I plan on staying another few years at Chelsea,” said Azpilicueta. “I'm very happy there. I'm not thinking about leaving the club. I'm only thinking of the Blues.
“But if I have to leave it would be for a club where I could develop even more than at Chelsea.”
There is less doubt over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois though, who has attracted interest from another La Liga giant in Real Madrid. Florentino Perez sees the Belgian as an alternative to David de Gea should he fail to coax the Manchester United star once again this summer.
Courtois is unsettled at Chelsea and has a poor working relationship with their goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon. Chelsea have made it clear they will not throw Lollichon, who is highly thought of, out of the club for Courtois.
It may be the case that they have to hire another goalkeeping coach to satisfy Courtois, however. If Courtois does agree to stay, it is likely their backup goalkeeper Asmir Begovic will leave after just one season at the club.
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