Transfer Rumour: Antonio Conte fails to convince Axel Witsel to join Chelsea as Oscar's replacement
Chelsea’s pursuit of Axel Witsel as outgoing Oscar’s replacement has hit a dead end with the Zenit St Petersburg midfielder reportedly uninterested in joining the London giants, according to The Sun from this morning.
Antonio Conte is losing Oscar to the Chinese Super League for around £60 million in the January transfer window and was hoping to bring in the big Belgian to adequately replace the Brazilian. But 27-year-old Witsel is hell bent on a move to Italian champions – and Antonio Conte’s former team – Juventus.
The Turin club have had an eye on Witsel for a while now, having approached him in this summer, but with Zenit St Petersburg refusing to sell their star man, Witsel decided to play out his contract at the club and then move on a free to the defending Italian champions.
Chelsea tried to hijack the deal in the last minute by putting in a bid for Witsel but failed to persuade him to join Conte’s revolution in West London. Despite Witsel playing a lot deeper than outgoing Oscar, he seemed like the perfect fit for the number 8 jersey.
But he isn’t the only midfielder Chelsea are targeting in January. Antonio Conte is interested in signing a midfielder from a host of names, including the likes of Marco Verratti, Thiago Alcantara and Radja Nainggolan.
The Italian is interested in bringing in someone who could come in and have an impact straight away - someone who could play with the ball at his feet and have the kind of ability to steal it off the feet of opposition forwards. Finding that balance is tough in football but Conte believes his system could bring out the best in all of the aforementioned names.
Chelsea and Conte are also interested in replenishing the forward line with interest in Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus. Conte is adamant he wants someone who can ease the pressure on Chelsea’s Diego Costa and Eden Hazard and not replace them wholly.
The Londoners are currently at the top of the table, seven points ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. They host Stoke City midweek in the Premier League before travelling to take on Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. They remain unbeaten in 11 Premier League games ever since losing 3-0 to Arsenal in September.