Chelsea will step up their chase of Celtic’s Josip Juranovic with Reece James ruled out until February. The Croatian right-back has long been on the Stamford Bridge radar even before his impressive showing at the World Cup and could be brought south of the border for as little as £8million.
The 27-year-old is under contract until 2026, but cost the Scottish club just £2.5m when he joined them 18 months ago. It makes sense for Chelsea to try to bring him in at the start of the January window with James suffering a setback to his knee injury on Tuesday.
Celtic already have signed CF Montreal’s Alistair Johnston as a replacement. Chelsea’s new owners are determined to get the most out of only their second transfer window of their tenure with long-term recruitment very much to the forefront.
19-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder is set to sign a five-year contract in a £20m deal while Ivory Coast striker David Datro Fofana of Molde is close to a similar £8.6m move. Both players would return to their current clubs for the remainder of the season as part of the moves.
James received a timely injury boost just hours after describing 2022 as the “toughest year to date”. Fears that further damage to the knee he injured in October could rule him out for most of the rest of the season proved unfounded once the results of scans were assessed.
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A statement released by Chelsea the afternoon following the game said: “Defender Reece James underwent assessment earlier today after being substituted during the second half of last night’s 2-0 Premier League victory over AFC Bournemouth due to a knee injury.
“Scan results have regrettably confirmed a setback for the 23-year-old, with Reece now set to be ruled out for up to a month.” The negativity of the club’s wording reflects the criticism they had received in the intervening period over the decision to play James in the first place.
Certainly James himself seemed at low ebb with what had transpired after the initial injury picked up against AC Milan in a 2-0 win in October had ruled him out of the entire World Cup in Qatar. “2022 has been the toughest year to date,” he posted on Instagram before medical scans had been assessed.
“I just wanted to thank you all for the support this year, none of it has gone unnoticed. It’s naturally affected me mentally, but life is about dealing with the hand you’ve been dealt and that’s what I’m currently tryna do.
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“I hope your end of year is filled with peace, joy and happiness. Love you all, catch you next year.” His personal fitness trainer James Ralph – who has worked with James and Fikayo Tomori and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for around 18 months – was also furious initially.
After the match, manager Graham Potter had explained that they had only hoped to get 60 minutes of action under James’ belt as part of his recuperation programme, only for disaster to strike from a seemingly innocuous pass just minutes earlier. However, Ralph took to his own company’s own Instagram account to express his exasperation at the set-back.
“I need to bite my tongue despite having a LOT to say,” he posted in a message accompanied with emojis reflecting his frustration. The message was subsequently deleted. A month further on the sidelines could put him in contention for a return in the west London derby on February 3.
The concern, though, is that he would miss league and cup clashes with Manchester City and the trip to Anfield to face Liverpool on January 21. But would be up-to-speed to return to the international fold for the March European Championships qualifiers for England.