With Manchester United in the market for a new centre-back this year, the link between Jean-Clair Todibo and OGC Nice owners INEOS is an easy one to make. But Chelsea have previously thwarted United’s hopes of signing a French centre-back, and they could do it again in January.
Todibo has been strongly linked with a United move since Sir Jim Ratcliffe emerged as the preferred bidder in the Glazer family’s strategic review.
The 71-year-old tycoon has agreed a £1.3billion deal for a 25 per cent stake, and is now awaiting Premier League ratification, which could come as early as this month.
INEOS have immediately inherited control over all football operations from the Glazers and will play a significant role in shaping United’s summer transfer window.
With Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof and Jonny Evans’ futures uncertain, Erik ten Hag could recruit two centre-backs at the end of the season.
Todibo has naturally entered the frame as Varane’s potential successor amid a sensational season at INEOS-owned Nice.
But the 24-year-old might not be available by the summer if Ratcliffe green-lights a transfer to Chelsea this month.
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According to Foot Mercato, Chelsea are unsatisfied with their defence and want to re-open the chequebook for more defensive reinforcements.
The Blues are said to have opened talks for the signing of Todibo this winter to fend off rival interest from United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Tottenham reportedly made a concrete approach in December. However, Ange Postecoglou is keen to sign a new centre-back quickly, with Micky van de Ven and Cristian Romero sidelined.
It has prompted Spurs to aim their focus towards a deal for 21-year-old Genoa defender Radu Dragusin.
United’s interest remains, though. The report adds that the club has sent scouts to watch Todibo numerous times.
The Red Devils were also linked with Axel Disasi before Chelsea swept in to complete a £40m deal for the AS Monaco star.
Chelsea also looked to Monaco for another young French defender last January, signing Benoit Badiashile for £35m.
Todibo could be the latest Mauricio Pochettino adds to his ranks as the troublesome start to his Stamford Bridge reign turns for the better heading into 2024.
Chelsea have won four of their last five games, ousting Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Luton Town in the Premier League and dumping Newcastle United out of the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on penalties.
The Blues remain 10th, though, and Pochettino will be keen to strengthen his options midway through the campaign.