Chelsea appear to have won the race to sign Sporting Lisbon midfielder Manuel Ugarte after the Blues agreed to pay more than his release clause, according to reports.
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New boss Mauricio Pochettino is looking to rebuild Chelsea’s midfield as a matter of urgency in the midst of a host of looming departures and quickly made Uruguay international Ugarte his top target.
Contract rebels Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount – whose deals expire in 2024 – are both expected to be sold, while N’Golo Kante is out of contract at the end of this month.
That has seen Chelsea pursue a new defensive midfielder to sit alongside club-record signing Enzo Fernandez and they have returned to Lisbon to solve the problem.
The west Londoners have been battling Paris Saint-Germain over Ugarte for several weeks and now Portuguese newspaper Record claim Chelsea have ‘closed the deal’.
After two weeks of intense meetings between Chelsea, Sporting, PSG and Ugarte’s representatives – including Jorge Mendes – the 22-year-old has decided to move to the Premier League.
Chelsea have actually agreed to pay more than Ugarte’s €60million (£52m) release clause, offering an additional €5m (£4.3m) in order to avoid paying the whole fee up front.
Sporting have accepted the terms and it is believed that PSG were unwilling to go any higher with their offer, with the French side exasperated with how the deal has been hijacked.
The Parisians actually offered Ugarte a higher salary to move to the Parc des Princes, with Chelsea – as they have done with most of their new additions – offering a longer-length deal on less extravagant terms.
PSG were prepared to hand Ugarte a deal worth £4.3m-a-year – or around £82,000-a-week – but he will only earn £3m-a-year – or £57,000-a-week – at Stamford Bridge, with the contract expected to be in excess of six years.
Ugarte has long harboured a desire to play in the Premier League and that ultimately proved to be the decisive factor in talks.
The Uruguayan is expected to fly to London in the coming days to complete a medical and could be unveiled as the first signing of the Pochettino era by the end of the week.
Ugarte has enjoyed an excellent campaign for Sporting, both domestically and in Europe, and has marked himself out as one of the most promising young defensive midfielders in the world; he completed more tackles (121) than any other player in the Portuguese league this past season.
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