Chelsea join race for Celta’s £34m Gabri Veiga and likely to sell Kai Havertz

<span>Photograph: Octávio Passos/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Octávio Passos/Getty Images

Chelsea have entered the race to sign the exciting Celta Vigo midfielder Gabri Veiga and are likely to sell Kai Havertz after being made aware of the German forward’s desire to leave.

Mauricio Pochettino faces an extensive rebuild after becoming Chelsea’s head coach and is prioritising additions in midfield. Pochettino encountered frustration after missing out on Sporting’s Manuel Ugarte, who is set to join Paris Saint-Germain, and has switched his focus to Veiga. Chelsea, who also want a goalkeeper and a striker, face competition for the 21-year-old Spaniard from Barcelona and Liverpool.

Related: N’Golo Kanté offered salary of up to €100m to join club in Saudi Arabia

Veiga has emerged as one of the best young midfielders in Europe and his contract contains a €40m (£34.4m) buyout clause. Chelsea, who also want Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo, are prepared to push hard for him. Liverpool will consider moving for Veiga once they complete the signing of the Brighton midfielder Alexis Mac Allister.

Pochettino is to oversee a summer of change. Chelsea need to sell players after spending close to £600m on signings in the past 12 months and are expected to need reinforcements in midfield. Mateo Kovacic is likely to join Manchester City, Manchester United have opened talks over a deal for Mason Mount and Milan are interested in Ruben Loftus Cheek. N’Golo Kanté, who is out of contract, has received a lucrative offer to move to Saudi Arabia with Al-Ittihad or Al-Nassr.

Chelsea, who will not be in Europe next season, need to cut their bloated squad and many of their players are looking for a way out after the club’s disappointing first year under the ownership of Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital.

Havertz has emerged as a target for Real Madrid, who could face competition from Bayern Munich, and has told Chelsea he wants a fresh challenge. The 23-year-old has two years on his deal and is unlikely to sign an extension. Chelsea’s owners do not want to keep players with 12 months on their contract and Havertz’s stance could force their hand.

It is understood Chelsea will demand £75m for the Germany international. Madrid regard Havertz as a potential replacement for Karim Benzema, who is joining Al-Ittihad on a free transfer. Madrid are also expected to bid for Tottenham’s Harry Kane and are close to signing the Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham.

Havertz, who can play as a No 10 or as a false 9, joined from Bayer Leverkusen in 2020. The financial impact of the pandemic stopped Madrid from competing for him then. Havertz was regarded as one of the world’s brightest talents and there was plenty of hype when he arrived in England.

His time at Chelsea will be remembered for his winner in the Champions League final against City in 2021. He also scored the decisive goal when Chelsea beat Palmeiras in the Club World Cup final in February 2022.

Although Havertz has earned plaudits for his grace, skill and tactical awareness, he has not quite lived up to expectations. His best position remains unclear and he has scored 19 goals in 91 Premier League appearances.

Chelsea, who are due to add to their attack with the £58m signing of Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig, have insisted they are not under pressure to sell because of Financial Fair Play concerns. But they will raise extensive funds if Kovacic, Mount and Havertz leave.

It remains to be seen how they react to the interest in Kanté. The France midfielder has been offered a contract worth about €100m (£86.2m) a year to move to Saudi and Chelsea do not want to get into a bidding war. Kanté was close to signing an extension this year but the deal has not been finalised. The 32-year-old has struggled with injuries and made nine appearances this season.