London (AFP) – Chelsea secured the signing of Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez on a season-long loan deal on Tuesday to further strengthen Thomas Tuchel’s wealth of options.
The Spanish international has been a key player of Diego Simeone’s reign at Atletico, but fell down the pecking order last season as Los Rojiblancos won La Liga.
“We have completed the signing of Saul Niguez from Atletico Madrid on a season-long loan deal with an option for a permanent transfer at the end of the season,” Chelsea said in a statement.
The 26-year-old had been linked with a move to Barcelona earlier in the window as a makeweight in a deal to bring Antoine Griezmann back to Atletico.
But with Griezmann reportedly heading to the Wanda Metropolitano on loan, Saul has been allowed to leave for London to free up space on Atletico’s wage bill.
“I am very excited to start this new challenge with Chelsea,” said Saul. “Blues fans, I am one of you now and I can’t wait to wear the shirt, start training and see all of you.”
Saul has scored 43 goals in 340 Atletico appearances, including the one that beat Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals in 2016 as Simeone’s men reached the final for a second time in two years.
His goalscoring prowess adds an extra dimension to Chelsea’s midfield with goals from open play few and far between from the establised trio of Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante.
“We welcome Saul to the Club and believe he completes our squad as we compete for honours in five different competitions this season,” said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia.
“He is a proven winner, a player with huge experience and we know he will be very well-suited to the challenges that face us on all fronts in the coming year.”
The Blues won the Champions League just five months into Tuchel’s reign as coach last season and are expected to challenge to retain that title and win the Premier League this season.
Saul is Chelsea’s second signing of the summer after spending a club record £97.5 million ($134 million) to re-sign Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan.
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