Chelsea have reportedly set their sights on Benfica midfielder Julian Weigl, as a cost-effective alternative for top target Declan Rice.

According to The Telegraph, Chelsea are weighing up a shock move for Julian Weigl. The SL Benfica midfielder has been identified as the desired cost-effective alternative for top target Declan Rice, as Thomas Tuchel looks to shore up his options in the defensive midfield position next season.

Rice is the obvious priority here, but Chelsea fear that they could be priced out of a move from London rivals West Ham. As a result, they are now willing to look towards Weigl, who has a very close relationship with Tuchel.

The midfielder, in fact, was brought into Borussia Dortmund by the German tactician by 2015. He enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence under Tuchel, becoming one of Germany’s best young talents in the middle of the park, although his growth rapidly declined following the departure of Tuchel in 2017.

Big things ahead of Weigl. (Photo courtesy - Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images,)

Weigl was a major hit under Tuchel. (Photo courtesy – Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images,)

Indeed, Weigl found it difficult to thrive under new coaches like Peter Bosz, Peter Stoger and Lucien Favre, forcing him to join SL Benfica in January 2020. The move has paid off well for him, as the German has now emerged as a vital cog in the midfield unit for the Eagles, having already notched up 63 competitive appearances for the club.

During his time in Portugal, Weigl has also greatly improved on his physicality and aggression, making him a much more complete holding midfielder than he was at Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea’s interest in the former 1860 Munich prodigy, therefore, is hardly surprising.

The Blues are bracing themselves for the sale of a few fringe players in midfield this summer, including Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley. It accentuates the need for a new holding midfielder who can provide direct competition for Jorginho, and that is where Weigl could prove to be an excellent choice for Chelsea.

The 25-year-old has a lot of experience of working under Tuchel and should settle in very quickly in the number position. Chelsea, too, have shown the desire to sign cost-effective options like Niklas Sule and Maxence Lacroix, so someone like Weigl should fit in just fine, despite his lack of experience in English football.

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However, it remains to be seen how much Benfica demand for their prized midfield asset this summer, given the fact that player still has a contract until 2024. That said, the 25-year-old German is unlikely to exceed the €25 million mark, as Tuchel continues his search for talented holding midfielders.

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