Chelsea are reportedly set to face competition from Napoli in the race to sign 23-year-old Attila Szalai, who has been compared to Virgil van Dijk.

According to a report from Calciomercato, Chelsea will have to battle it out with Serie A bigwigs Napoli if they wish to secure the signing of Hungarian defender Attila Szalai from Fenerbahce.

The 23-year-old started his footballing journey in Hungary but moved to the Rapid Vienna academy in Austria at a very young age. Having risen through the ranks there, he made one senior appearance before returning to his homeland in 2017 by joining Mezokovesd. Two years later, he signed for Cypriot club Apollon Limassol, where he burst into prominence.

Szalai signed for Fenerbahce in January earlier this year and has quickly become a regular in the side, already racking up 43 appearances in which he has a return of three goals and two assists. A solid, all-round modern-day defender, the 23-time capped Hungarian international has been compared to Liverpool superstar Virgil van Dijk.

Szalai’s progress at Limassol and now Fenerbahce has not gone unnoticed, with Chelsea taking a keen interest in the 23-year-old. The Blues are in a precarious position with regard to their defensive department as Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Thiago Silva are all out of contract at the end of the season.

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While it is believed that Azpilicueta is keen on staying put, Rudiger has been heavily linked with an exit, with Real Madrid particularly interested in the German international. Christensen, too, has been tipped to leave Stamford Bridge, although Silva could sign an extension. Nonetheless, there could at least be one major exit from Chelsea in the near future, and they will need to address that with a replacement.

A move for Torino’s Gleison Bremer has been touted of late, but Szalai has also been on the club’s radars for a while now. In fact, the defender’s manager with the Hungary national team went as far as claiming that the 23-year-old’s transfer to Chelsea was pretty much a done deal.

However, as per the latest update from Calciomercato, the Blues will face competition from Napoli in pursuit of the Fenerbahce star. The Partenopei are in the market for a new centre-back after agreeing to sell Kostas Manolas to Olympiacos in January. The Greek centre-back’s departure would leave a void in the squad, and Luciano Spaletti has identified Szalai as a potential option to replace him.

Fenerbahce would be open to offloading their prized asset as they look to profit from his sale with the club going through a difficult financial situation. Whether Chelsea or Napoli make a move for Szalai in January remains to be seen.

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