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Chelsea’s Pochettino: Lukaku exit ‘obvious’; CM targeted

Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed he expects Romelu Lukaku to leave Chelsea this summer and says the club are targeting a central midfielder but may also look to sign a centre-back following Wesley Fofana’s serious injury setback.

In his first exclusive interview since becoming Blues boss on July 1, Pochettino sat down with ESPN to discuss the work Chelsea have left to do in the transfer market.

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Lukaku was not part of the 29-man squad which travelled to North Carolina on Monday for five pre-season games in the United States starting with a friendly against Wrexham on Wednesday.

Juventus and Inter Milan are interested in signing Lukaku and although he has so far resisted interest from the Middle East to join the Saudi Pro League, Pochettino stated that the striker sees his future elsewhere following talks with the club.

Asked by ESPN if Lukaku was going to leave Chelsea, Pochettino said: “I think it is obvious. I think we can repeat this.

“It is obvious what is going on with him. I think in between the club and the player, they share the same similar ideas and we are working on that to try to fix it and have the best solution for both parties.”

The Blues are continuing to press ahead with their squad rebuild by pursuing a deal for Brighton‘s Moisés Caicedo. They had a second offer worth £70 million rejected for the 21-year-old, who is valued by Brighton at £100m.

Chelsea are likely to return with an improved bid but Pochettino admitted Fofana’s injury blow could force them into market elsewhere.

The club confirmed in a statement that Fofana underwent anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery and is now expected to be out for a prolonged period.

“Look what happened with Fofana,” said Pochettino. “Maybe yes or maybe no we need to work to replace him, an idea that we were not thinking. That has maybe made us change direction.

“But like football, football is the present. It is to be flexible with the mentality that you change. When something happened like this, you need to be focused and concentrated. We are working, trying to improve. Until the end, we are going to be there and we will see what happens in the market.

“It is really tough because he is a player who should be really important in our project and of course we feel really sad and in a bad mood. Normally it is for him, but for the team, the club.”

Pochettino refused to be drawn on specific targets but admitted Chelsea are looking to strengthen in central midfield having allowed Mateo Kovacic to join Manchester City after N’Golo Kante left for Al-Ittihad.

“Yes I think we need [a player] there [in midfield], for sure,” he said. “But I think it is clear. Everyone knows that we need maybe to add some players there.”

If Chelsea agree a deal for Caicedo, he will make the same journey from Brighton to the Blues as Marc Cucurella made a year earlier.

“I think Moises wants to come to Chelsea, I read in the media,” Cucurella said. “When we stay in Brighton together, he is a top player. He is very young but his head is very clever. He has a lot of energy. He showed his quality.

“He is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League so if he came to Chelsea, I think we would have a really good player for a long time.”

Cucurella has been linked with a move away from Chelsea after a disappointing season but the 24-year-old said he wants to stay and prove himself at Stamford Bridge.

“I read as well as lot of things but I am happy here,” he added. “I came here for the project. Obviously the first season was not easy but not only for me, for all the players it is not easy because when you don’t win, you don’t stay happy.

“When you don’t play good, it is difficult to stay happy. But this is the past so if the manager say they want me to stay and be part of the squad, I am very happy and I try to do my best for the team. And as well, to show the fans and my team-mates what is my level.”

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