Chelsea are interested in signing versatile Southampton defender Kyle Walker-Peters, according to reports.
The 26-year-old played under current Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino during his time at Tottenham Hotspur and has reportedly been identified as a January transfer target.
That is according to TEAMtalk, who have stated that Chelsea have initiated conversations with the player’s agent as they look to assess whether a move this month is realistic.
Walker-Peters’ versatility of covering both full-back positions is seen as highly-desirable by the Chelsea hierarchy given the injury-prone nature of Reece James and Ben Chilwell.
The Spurs academy graduate could be available for around €35 million (£30m) in January, according to TEAMtalk, although this is more than his Estimated Transfer Value (ETV) of just €8.8m.
The reason for that low figure is Walker-Peters only has 18 months left on his current contract at St Mary’s and his ETV has slowly fallen from €21.1m in June as a result.
Chelsea were interested in signing Walker-Peters in 2022, before deciding to sign Marc Cucurella, and the Englishman has gone from strength to strength since then, while the Spaniard has struggled.
Kyle Walker-Peters knows Mauricio Pochettino
While Walker-Peters has admitted his gratitude to his former Tottenham head coach, he has revealed his disappointment at not featuring more under Pochettino.
In 2020, he reflected on his time at Spurs and said: “I didn’t get to play at White Hart Lane, but I’ve played at the new one and I’ve had some memorable moments for Tottenham in the little amount of games I’ve played.
“If you get man of the match [against Newcastle], you expect to start the next game, which was against Chelsea. I guess you can say that’s a lot to ask of a young player, but at the time I was really disappointed not to start.
He is him. 🤌 pic.twitter.com/Eq1hAfLQaS
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) November 29, 2023
“I never understood why I didn’t play much after I got man of the match, but the manager has to make decisions and what he thinks is best.
“I just always made sure in training I worked hard and really tried to improve for myself, because ultimately when that opportunity does come, as it did at the end of the season, I had to show I’d improved and I was capable to play. I think I did that.”
Should Chelsea sign Kyle Walker-Peters?
Although French right-back Malo Gusto was signed in 2023, he has been forced to play virtually every minute of action in all competitions since James’ latest injury setback despite the fact he has only just returned to full fitness himself.
As a result, Pochettino is playing a very risky game with regards to another possible injury to Gusto, and academy star Alfie Gilchrist is yet to be trusted from the start in a Premier League game.
The young Englishman is also naturally a centre-back and therefore may not be a long-term solution at full-back.
Signing Walker-Peters may enable Pochettino to rest Gusto from time-to-time in James’ absence while he could also allow Levi Colwill to feature more frequently at centre-back, which is something that has rarely happened since he returned from his loan spell at Brighton & Hove Albion.
The former Spurs defender has featured heavily at left-back in the past (notably during Valentino Livramento’s first season at Southampton) and could fill in there at Chelsea amid Marc Cucurella’s injury and Chilwell’s inconsistent fitness record.
Walker-Peters isn’t a big-name signing that will get fans excited, but he could be a useful addition and would add proven Premier League experience to a squad lacking that.
However, the counter argument would be that Chelsea should be saving their funds for their pursuit of Napoli star Victor Osimhen.
Furthermore, with the Blues’ academy known for producing full-backs, Pochettino might be wise to utilise the youngsters already at his disposal instead of signing off on another new arrival.
Dylan Williams is a highly-talented left-back currently excelling for Chelsea’s U21 side, while Gilchrist has proven he can fill in if necessary on the right.
Furthermore, Axel Disasi has played at right-back on occasion and with Chilwell now back to full fitness, Pochettino could flip his system and play a centre-back at right-back (rather than at left-back).
That would allow Chilwell to attack like Gusto does on the right, knowing he has protection from an inverted back three behind him.
Walker-Peters is a very good player, far better than Championship level, and Chelsea probably should’ve signed him instead of Cucurella amid reported interest in 2022. However, they didn’t and that decision looks an error in hindsight.
As a cheap, back-up option he would be great, but if the Blues do sign him it would once again beg the question as to why the aforementioned Livramento wasn’t given a chance in the first-team before pushing to leave.
The hassle of searching for a player who can cover both full-back positions simply wouldn’t have been necessary if the Newcastle star had been convinced by a first-team pathway at Stamford Bridge.