Thomas Tuchel didn’t recognise Chelsea summer signing Denis Zakaria but was key to another £20m deal


Thomas Tuchel didn’t instantly recognise new Chelsea signing Denis Zakaria last summer but was instrumental in bringing another £20m star to Stamford Bridge, according to reports. New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly spent more than £250m in his first transfer window in charge of the Premier League club. While Boehly and Tuchel worked together to bring the likes of £50m England forward Raheem Sterling and £33m Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly to Chelsea, the American businessman also identified his own targets.

The Blues completed a season-long loan move for Juventus midfielder Zakaria on transfer deadline day but the deal appears to have come as somewhat as a surprise to Tuchel. The Daily Telegraph say Tuchel did not immediately recognise Zakaria when introduced to the Switzerland international in September, with the meeting threatening to become embarrassing before the manager finally put two and two together.

While Tuchel may not have had much of a say in the Zakaria deal, it is claimed the German boss was key in bringing Carney Chukwuemeka to the club and spoke to the teenager personally before his £20m move from Aston Villa. Zakaria had to wait until November to make his Chelsea debut and by then Tuchel had been sacked and replaced by former Brighton boss Graham Potter.

The 26-year-old has continued to struggle for game- time since then and European football expert Guillem Balague claims Zakaria was not Chelsea’s ‘first, second or even third choice’.

‘He has got the right kind of power, has good ability to recover the ball and will make intelligent moves in transition,’ Balague told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Euro Leagues podcast . ‘He is not Fabinho or N’Golo Kante, but he will add dynamism and physicality to that Chelsea midfield. ‘Quite clearly, though, if Zakaria was their target then they would have gone for him earlier. He’s not their first, second or even third choice in my view.’

Chelsea’s summer spending spree has not had the results Boehly would have wanted, with the Blues slipping to 10th in the Premier League this season. Boehly is ready to splash more cash in January, with Chelsea in talks to sign Enzo Fernandez from Benfica and Mykhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk. Discussing Chelsea’s transfer plans, Potter said this week:

‘It’s a good question. But the problem is if I answer it, and I’m specific in that answer, every single player in that area will be linked with Chelsea. ‘So I have to dodge it – and I hope you can understand why I’m dodging it. I always answer that part of the question by saying I’m the head coach and my responsibility is to the players that are here.

‘We will try in every window to improve, but January is a complicated one because it’s the middle of the season. ‘In the meantime, we have to deal with all the noise of Chelsea getting linked with everybody – and I don’t comment on any player that isn’t a Chelsea player. ‘As always, and it’s a boring answer, but my job is to help the players that are here and support the club in terms of decisions they make on how to improve.’

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