Thomas Tuchel has played down his clash with opposite number Antonio Conte at the end of Chelsea's thrilling 2-2 draw with Tottenham, describing the melee as natural at the end of an "emotional" match.

Chelsea twice led Spurs in an absorbing London derby on Sunday, opening the scoring through Kalidou Koulibaly's stunning volley and responding to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's equaliser by going 2-1 ahead through Reece James.

But Harry Kane's 96th-minute header saw Conte snatch a point on his return to Stamford Bridge, causing chaotic scenes on the touchline as the two coaches were given red cards after clashing over a post-match handshake.

Tuchel and Conte have now both received a card in three separate Premier League games since the start of last season, more than any other managers in the competition. 

But Tuchel told Sky Sports such incidents are to be expected between top competitors, saying: "When you shake hands I thought we look into each others' eyes but Antonio had a different opinion… it was emotional.

"He was happy when they equalised and then it got a bit heated but nothing big. We both got a red card? I think it was not necessary. But a lot of things were not necessary, so that's another poor decision from the referee today.

"It's emotional. You like it. We don't need comments now, and it being heated up and heated up.

"Just look at it. It's the Premier League, it's the game. You love it, no? We love it. We are emotional coaches."

Asked whether he would seek Conte out to apologise for his role in the confrontation, Tuchel was non-committal, adding: "If we meet, we meet, If not, then not. It's not a problem, it's over a football match.

"Come on guys, it's between two competitors and nothing bad happened."

Tuchel celebrated by racing down the touchline in jubilant fashion when James re-established Chelsea's lead with 13 minutes remaining, and admits his actions may have played some role in causing the scenes witnessed at full-time.

"In the middle of it I thought I should not do this but sometimes a match gets you totally, this match sucked me in," he smiled. 

"It was a brilliant effort after an undeserved equaliser. It was pure joy, and it may offend the opposition but they did the same when they equalised."

Harry Kane scored a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser as Tottenham twice came from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw in an ill-tempered London derby against Chelsea.

Antonio Conte had twice looked set to finish empty handed on his Stamford Bridge return, with Kalidou Koulibaly opening the scoring with a sumptuous volley on his home debut for Chelsea early on.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg levelled with a long-range strike in the second half, but Chelsea again looked to be on course for the win when Reece James side-footed home after racing onto Raheem Sterling's pass.

But Kane was on hand to head home from a late corner and spark wild celebrations from Conte, who was promptly sent off amid a touchline clash as Spurs claimed a potentially vital point from a trip to a likely rival for Champions League qualification.

Napoli are closing in on the signing of Verona striker Giovanni Simeone as Luciano Spalletti said the Serie A club are beginning a "new cycle" following a host of big-name exits.

Spalletti's team threatened a first Scudetto since the Diego Maradona era before tailing off to finish third last season, but have since seen the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne depart.

Reports have suggested Napoli will combat the losses of Mertens and Insigne – the top two goalscorers in the club's history – by bringing in Verona striker Simeone on an initial loan deal.

Simeone – the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone – scored 17 Serie A goals last season, a tally bettered only by Ciro Immobile (27), Dusan Vlahovic (24) and Lautaro Martinez (21).

The Argentine averaged a goal every 157 minutes throughout the campaign, converting 55 per cent of his big chances.

Ahead of Napoli travelling to Verona for their Serie A opener on Monday, Spalletti revealed the striker's arrival was imminent as he pledged to rebuild the Partenopei's side.

"If everything is okay, of course he will come, we are waiting for him, if you stay, say hello to him too!" Spalletti said amid reports Simeone was undergoing a medical with Napoli.

"He is one we need and Naples is what he needs, it is a correct purchase.

"We will do our best right away, and that I am convinced that we will make the fans fall in love again, as happened last year.

"Now we are talking about a Napoli that no longer sees in their ranks the most important players, and there is talk of players for a new cycle.

"It's a responsibility that stimulates me a lot. Of course, a little support from the city and society is needed, the most difficult things are those of the changing room dynamics.

"They changed without [Faouzi] Ghoulam, [David] Ospina, Mertens and Insigne. In addition to the game dynamics there are those of character, and we have to recreate those there. I'm not afraid of anything." 

Just 11 weeks have passed since Manchester City lifted the Premier League title to bring down the curtain on the 2021-22 Premier League campaign, yet plenty has changed ahead of the start of the new season.

City have undergone a facelift of sorts, with Erling Haaland their marquee arrival of the window, while last term's runners-up Liverpool have replaced the ever-reliable Sadio Mane with Darwin Nunez in attack.

The chasing pack have also been busy as they desperately attempt to keep pace with City and Liverpool, but the exciting signings of the close season to date have not been solely reserved by those competing in the upper echelons.

With the 2022-23 season getting underway on Friday, Stats Perform picks out 10 players we are most looking forward to seeing in action in the Premier League for the very first time.

 

Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Arguably the highest-profile signing of the transfer window, Haaland arrives at City with a reputation of being one of Europe's most ruthless goalscorers at the age of just 22.

Haaland was prolific during his short time at Salzburg and scored 86 goals in 89 appearances in all competitions for Borussia Dortmund.

That is a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) across the same period, both of whom played 19 games more.

Darwin Nunez (Liverpool)

Liverpool will also have a new frontman this campaign after spending an initial £64million (€75m) to bring in Nunez from Benfica.

While not a direct like-for-like replacement for Mane, the Uruguay international will have to both score goals on a regular basis and also help to get the best out of his fellow attackers, such as Mohamed Salah. 

The figures suggest Nunez should be well up to the task, with his conversion rate of 27.2 per cent being the highest of all players with 55 or more non-penalty shots in Europe's top-six leagues last season.

Ivan Perisic (Tottenham)

Tottenham were successful in getting the majority of their transfer business out the way early on, giving Antonio Conte a chance to integrate the likes of Clement Lenglet, Djed Spence, Richarlison and Yves Bissouma into his squad.

Each of those will add something different, but it is Perisic who is the most intriguing signing of the lot. Regularly linked with a switch to the Premier League, the former Dortmund, Inter and Bayern winger finally gets a chance to test himself in England's top flight. 

Among many other qualities, Perisic created the most chances following ball carries – defined as any instance when a player moves five-or-more metres with the ball – of any player in Serie A in 2021-22 (26), showing he can still be a menace out wide even at the age of 33.

Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United)

New head coach Erik ten Hag has largely stuck to what he knows when it comes to Manchester United's transfer activity in his first window in charge. Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Martinez have all either worked under Ten Hag or have strong connections with the Eredivisie.

Eriksen is already an established name in English football, whereas Malacia and Martinez are gearing up for their first taste of the Premier League. While Malacia is expected to be used as a squad player, Martinez will surely be a regular in the heart of defence if his £48m (€57m) price tag is anything to go by.

Despite concerns being raised over his lack of height, Martinez boasted an aerial duel success rate of 70.2 per cent in the Eredivisie last season, which was fourth-best return of any player.

Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea)

Another perennially linked Premier League player, Koulibaly has joined Chelsea after eight years as a Napoli player. Following the departures of centre-backs Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger after the expiration of their contracts, Koulibaly will have to hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge.

If his time with Napoli is anything to go by, Chelsea will have a solid and reliable player in the heart of their defence for the next few years. Across his time in Naples, no defender in Serie A won more tackles (344) or made more successful passes (14,528) than the Senegal international.

Fabio Vieira (Arsenal)

Arsenal mean serious business ahead of Mikel Arteta's third full season in charge. The Spaniard has used his Man City links to recruit Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus, having already added Vieira to the squad earlier in the window.

Central midfield was not exactly an area Arsenal were light, yet Arteta felt the need to strengthen and in Vieira he has a player with experience of winning a couple of league titles with Porto prior to turning 22.

In contrast to legendary Arsenal namesake Patrick, the Portugal Under-21 international is more accustomed to playing high up the field and recorded the most assists (14) of any Porto player in the league last season, while also chipping in with six goals of his own. 

Tyler Adams (Leeds United)

Leeds escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth last season – now they must do so again without their most important player following Kalvin Phillips' move to Man City. 

Plenty of eyes will be on Adams in the holding midfield position, the United States international having arrived at Elland Road on the back of three years with New York Red Bulls, followed by three more years with sister club RB Leipzig.

Adams recovered possession an average of 5.69 times per 90 minutes across his 24 Bundesliga appearances last season, which is nearly half the number Phillips (10.2) managed in the Premier League – the best return of any player with 900+ minutes in the competition.

Boubacar Kamara (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard has quietly gone about his transfer business ahead of his first full season in Premier League management. The signing of Kamara, a defensive midfielder by trade, went somewhat under the radar given it was announced just a day after the previous season finished.

Kamara was a big part of Marseille's strong 2021-22 campaign, which saw them finish second in Ligue 1 and reach the semi-finals of the Europa Conference League.

Of midfielders in the French top division in last season, only Johan Gastien and Jordan Ferri made more than Kamara's 2,383 passes, while of those who made over 1,000 passes, only five players had better accuracy than his 90.68 per cent.

Gianluca Scamacca (West Ham)

It says an awful lot about the work carried out by David Moyes at West Ham over the past two seasons that finishing seventh last time out – a drop from sixth the year before – was considered a disappointment.

If Moyes' men are to once again challenge on multiple fronts this coming season, bringing in a player who knows how to find the net was always going to be imperative. In Scamacca, West Ham appear to have exactly that.

The Italy international scored 16 goals in 36 Serie A appearances for mid-table Sassuolo last season and converted 70.59 per cent of his big chances, a figure only bettered by Gianluca Caprari (83.33) and Dusan Vlahovic (73.91) among players to hit double figures.

Aaron Hickey (Brentford)

Brentford have broken their transfer record multiple times this window to help build on an impressive first ever campaign in the Premier League. Christian Eriksen may have departed, but other areas have been strengthened, including in defence.

The £14m (€16.6m) signing of Hickey from Bologna arguably strengthens Brentford in both full-back departments, given the Scotland international's versatility with both feet. 

He also has an eye for goal, having netted five times in the Italian top flight and assisted another last season. Among Serie A defenders in the 2021-22 season, only Genoa's Domenico Criscito (six) and Nahuel Molina (seven) of Udinese scored more goals.

Billy Gilmour and Ross Barkley are among Chelsea stars who face an uncertain first-team future after being left off the club's squad number list for the new season.

The midfield pair, full internationals for Scotland and England respectively, were joined by the likes of Ethan Ampadu, Kenedy and Michy Batshuayi in being omitted.

Gilmour, an unused substitute in the 2021 Champions League final, was loaned out to Norwich City last season. The 21-year-old's Chelsea contract was then extended in June of this year to run until the end of the 2023-24 season.

His and 28-year-old Barkley's first-team prospects at least for the near future look bleak. That was made all the more obvious when the Blues brought in teenage midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka this week, handing the number 30 shirt to the England Under-19 international.

The return of Conor Gallagher from his successful loan at Crystal Palace also means he jumps the midfield queue at Stamford Bridge, taking the number 23 jersey.

Ampadu, 21, has barely been a factor in Chelsea's first-team considerations in recent seasons, with the Wales international having loan spells with RB Leipzig, Sheffield United and Venezia.

With Wales qualifying for Qatar 2022, ending a 64-year wait for a World Cup appearance, Ampadu will be eager to see first-team action before November, and that does not look likely at Chelsea.

Belgium striker Batshuayi will also be wanting to play regularly before that tournament, with he and Kenedy looking ripe for loan exits before the transfer window closes on September 1.

Highly rated centre-back Levi Colwill was also absent from the list, which was published on Thursday, although he reportedly could form part of a deal to bring Marc Cucurella to Chelsea from Brighton and Hove Albion.

It was already known that new recruits Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly would take numbers 17 and 26 respectively, with both poised to be fixtures in Thomas Tuchel's team.

Albanian striker Armando Broja, back from a loan at Southampton, is handed number 18, with the number nine shirt as yet unclaimed after Romelu Lukaku was loaned to Inter.

Chelsea were linked at one stage in the close season with Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, while more recent speculation has suggested they could be keen on Barcelona's former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Tuchel's side begin their Premier League campaign away to Blues hero Frank Lampard's Everton on Saturday.

Kalidou Koulibaly has condemned plans by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis to tell new signings they must agree not to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.

De Laurentiis proposed the controversial policy on Tuesday, saying that any African player who joined the Serie A club should make a commitment to skip the tournament.

It remains to be seen whether he goes through with the plan, or whether it is enforceable. The next AFCON is due to be played in the Ivory Coast in January 2024.

Last season, Napoli were without Cameroon international Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Senegal defender Koulibaly as they represented their nations in the tournament that took place in January and February, while Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen missed out because of an injury.

Koulibaly, who has since moved on to Chelsea, felt De Laurentiis was out of line with his remarks, and claimed the views would not be endorsed by many others at the club.

"It's up to him if he wanted to tell this, but for me the most important [thing] is to respect everybody," Koulibaly told a news conference in London.

"When I played there, I was playing also for Senegal, and I won the AFCON with Senegal when I was playing with Napoli.

"It's true that it was a difficult moment for them when we went to AFCON, but we won it and I'm really happy today."

While Napoli may have struggled for numbers without their African players, their results were strong nonetheless, with Luciano Spalletti's team taking 13 points from a possible 15 from their first five league games of the year. The only real disappointment was a Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Fiorentina in mid-January.

Koulibaly added: "You cannot speak for African national teams like this, I think. You have to have respect, like you have for other national teams.

"As captain of Senegal, I think that this is not a good way to speak about African national teams.

"But I respect what he thinks. If he thinks the team can play without African players, it's up to him. But I think not everybody has the same idea as him at the club.

"I know that some people who are part of this society and team do not have the same idea as him. It's not the idea of the society or the city, because the city is very respectful."

John Terry suspected Kalidou Koulibaly was a prank caller and hung up on Chelsea's new centre-back when the Senegalese star asked to take his old shirt number.

Koulibaly had the 26 shirt at Napoli and was eager to retain it at Chelsea, but decided he should check that was OK with Terry.

No first-team player at Chelsea has worn 26 since Terry departed at the end of the 2016-17 season, so it was a courtesy call that Koulibaly considered important.

Terry eventually happily gave his blessing and urged the new recruit to bring in more trophies, yet Koulibaly revealed that initially the former Blues and England captain thought he had a rogue caller on the line.

The 31-year-old said: "I was nervous a bit because I was waiting to sign my contract in Chelsea. It happened the day before. I was happy, and the second thing is I wanted to know which number was free.

"Speaking with the team manager, he told me some numbers, and he didn't tell me the 26. I said that John left it in 2017 and nobody took it from this time. So I was asking myself if it was retired or maybe nobody wanted to take it."

Koulibaly turned to a former Napoli and Chelsea hero to get hold of Terry.

"I asked Gianfranco Zola, who I know very well, about the club, about the structure and the supporters, and I asked him for John's number because I wanted to ask for the jersey," Koulibaly said.

"I called him and at the beginning he didn't believe that it was me, he believed it was a joke. He put down the phone and called the team manager to ask if it was really me.

"I know that it's a very important number for him, and it's very important for me because I took it to Napoli and I wanted to keep it for here at Chelsea.

"When he told me 'yes', I was really happy because I know what he did for the club and the supporters and the city here, and I knew it was important to ask him. He gave me his answer and I was happy.

"I wanted to tell people I had asked him before, because I didn't want to be disrespectful to a legend of the club."

Chelsea begin their season on Saturday at Everton, who are bossed by another Stamford Bridge great in Frank Lampard, as the Premier League gets under way.

Koulibaly, speaking in a news conference on Wednesday, said former Blues coach Antonio Conte had tried to sign him for Chelsea in 2015, but this time "the stars were in a good line".

"This team is a fantastic team of winners, of big stuff. I want to give them everything on the pitch," Koulibaly said. "I'm 31 with a good club in a good city. I hope I will stay here a long time."

He said it was important not to expect him to directly match up to Antonio Rudiger, who moved on to Real Madrid at the end of last season.

Comparisons are bound to be made, given he will be taking Rudiger's spot in central defence, but Koulibaly said: "I'm Koulibaly. I'm not Rudiger. I don't have the same skills, I don't play like him. I have another style.

"I will try to do my best and try to give solidity to the team. I know it will be difficult because I come from Italy and Premier League football is difficult. But I'm very motivated and want to show everybody Chelsea made a good choice with me."

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has controversially suggested the club will not sign African players unless they make agreements not to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Last season, Napoli were without Cameroon international Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly during their participation in Africa’s showpiece tournament, the latter of whom went on to win the tournament and has since departed Naples for Chelsea.

Striker Victor Osimhen could have been another player to travel to the tournament in Cameroon to play for Nigeria, but an injury ruled him out.

The next AFCON is due to be played in the Ivory Coast in 2024, and De Laurentiis says the club would want some sort of commitment from any player joining Napoli that they would be willing to skip the tournament.

"I told them: lads, don't talk to me about Africans anymore," De Laurentiis told a streamed event in quotes reported by Football Italia.

"I love them, but either they sign something confirming they'll back out of playing the Africa Cup of Nations, or otherwise between that tournament, the World Cup qualifiers in South America, these players are never available!

"We are the idiots who pay salaries only to send them all over the world playing for others."

De Laurentiis also revealed how he rebuked the advances of American investors in an offer worth $900million back in the 2017-18 season.

"In recent years these investment funds have become fashionable, they have to guarantee their investors a certain revenue within five years," the 73-year-old added.

"They saw that football is a great opportunity and they can double their investment by selling clubs to investment funds in future. That's what Milan and Inter have done, right?

"I am assailed by funds, I can't take it anymore. In 2017-18, an American fund offered me $900m to sell Napoli. But they don't realise I am this pure entrepreneur who enjoys playing the game, so let me keep playing."

Napoli have announced the signing of central defender Kim Min-jae from Fenerbahce, shelling out a reported €19.5million for the South Korea international in a bid to replace Kalidou Koulibaly.

Luciano Spalletti's team finished third in Serie A after threatening a first Scudetto win since the Diego Maradona era last term, conceding the joint-fewest goals in the division (31, alongside Milan).

But the Partenopei have been in the market for reinforcements since they lost defensive colossus Koulibaly to Chelsea in a €40m deal earlier this month.

Kim, who has 42 caps for his country and will hope to feature when they open their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on November 24, is the man Napoli have signed to fill that void after he enjoyed an impressive one-season spell in Turkey.

Having contributed to Fenerbahce conceding just 38 league goals last term, the towering 25-year-old has penned a three-year deal with the option of two further seasons in Italy.

Reports also suggest Kim will have a release clause of €45million.

Napoli begin their 2022-23 Serie A campaign at Verona on August 15 but have endured a troubled off-season, losing both Koulibaly and Lorenzo Insigne during the transfer window, while president Aurelio De Laurentiis confirmed on Saturday that club legend Dries Mertens is also departing.

Barcelona could not compete financially with Chelsea for the signing of centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

Chelsea confirmed the signing of Koulibaly last weekend in a deal worth a reported £33.8million (€40m), bringing an end to the defender's eight-year stay in Naples.

LaLiga heavyweights Barca, whose financial problems have been well documented over the past year, also had an interest in the Senegal international.

However, De Laurentiis claims the Catalan club could not meet Napoli's valuation for Koulibaly, who was into the final year of his contract at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

"Barcelona had come in, but they didn't have the money because they are in debt," he told Radio Kiss Kiss. "Then Chelsea came forward and we couldn't say no."

Koulibaly helped Napoli to three second-place finishes in Serie A and to Coppa Italia glory in 2020, as well as winning the Supercoppa Italiana shortly after he arrived in Italy.

Since joining the club in 2014, no defender in the Italian top flight has won more tackles than Koulibaly (344), or made more successful passes (14,528).

De Laurentiis revealed Napoli offered the 31-year-old an improved contract in an attempt to fend off Chelsea.

"I let Koulibaly go because he asked me to. I tried in every possible way to keep him, offering €6million per season net," De Laurentiis said.

"But if a player wants a new experience at a prestigious club, in the biggest league in the world, you have to recognise what he's given you and not put up walls."

Koulibaly made 236 Serie A appearances for Napoli, including 27 as the Partenopei finished third last season.

Thomas Tuchel suggested Armando Broja will remain a Chelsea player amid transfer speculation, while the Blues head coach still wants a "couple more" arrivals at Stamford Bridge.

West Ham, Everton and Newcastle United are reportedly interested in Broja, who scored six goals in 32 Premier League appearances on loan at Southampton last season.

With Romelu Lukaku loaned back to Inter, the future of Timo Werner somewhat uncertain and Kai Havertz arguably more suited to a deeper role, the 2022-23 campaign could be a breakthrough one for Broja at Chelsea.

While Tuchel's preference seems to remain with Havertz as a false nine, the Blues boss outlined his expectations that Broja will stay with his side for the upcoming campaign.

"I don't expect him to leave," Tuchel told a news conference. "We are aware of interest and offers, which just tells us there is a lot of potential, and the owners and me will take this decision together in the end, also with the player.

"Right now when he arrived, it's clear he's trying to impress and is just trying to become a Chelsea player as soon as possible.

"After his loan at Southampton, the situation was very clear for him to make the next step, to show his improvement and make an impression in pre-season.

"Unfortunately he injured himself and of course there is a lot of noise going on because there are offers and interest in him. Let's see how this goes but I'm pretty calm about it because we know the situation and we have a contract."

Tuchel has already brought in the experienced Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly from Manchester City and Napoli respectively, but lost Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Lukaku.

The Chelsea coach previously stated his top target was Sterling, who scored 17 goals in all competitions for City last season, a tally bettered by only Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19).

But Tuchel acknowledged he would now like a couple more signings, with Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde among those linked with the Premier League side.

"I have a figure and I think we need a couple more players in to improve the squad," he added. "We were third last season and there was a gap between us, Manchester City and Liverpool.

"In general if you want to fight, even for the same position, you need to improve. You can never stand still because if you stand still then other teams will overtake you.

"Given the situation that we even lost players, it's common sense for me that we need to bring new quality to the team to maintain our level.

"It's always the dream of every manager that you find players in the same league and who can adapt maybe quicker than other players, but it's also a very individual process.

"Of course we see that Raheem knows many players from the national team and he is very familiar with the habits of English clubs so this is very nice to see.

"For Kalidou, it's a big help that we have some French guys, that we have Edou [Mendy] his team-mate in the national team and of course Jorginho who is a big help from Napoli to make this process faster.

"Both of them should be huge players for us and that's why we need to speed things up."

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho hailed new signing Kalidou Koulibaly as a "real leader" as he expressed his delight at being reunited with his former Napoli team-mate at Stamford Bridge.

The Premier League club signed Koulibaly from the Partenopei last week for a reported fee of £33.8million (€40m), with the Senegal captain penning a four-year contract.

Koulibaly made 236 Serie A appearances during a distinguished eight-year spell with Napoli, helping them to three second-placed finishes and one Coppa Italia triumph. 

Jorginho starred alongside Koulibaly during the defender's first four seasons in Italy, and the pair are now set to link-up in England.

The Italy international has revealed he discussed such a reunion with Koulibaly on several occasions after making his own move to west London in 2018, as he lauded the defender for his leadership abilities.

"We spoke a lot about it," Jorginho told the club's website. "Even before I came here Chelsea were interested in him, and finally now it's happening so it's really good.

"I am so, so happy he's here. As a player, he's a brilliant defender – fast, strong and he has so much quality on the ball with both feet. He's also a real leader.

"We've stayed in contact since I left Napoli.

"He speaks better English already than I do so that will be good for him to help settle in. It's going to be really easy for him because of the person he is. 

"Of course, we will help him to make it maybe a bit easier for him to get involved with team-mates and everything, but even if he didn't know us it would be easy for him because he's such a good guy."

Thomas Tuchel has suggested that Chelsea could avoid signing players who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 in future.

N'Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have both missed the Blues' tour of the United States due to being unvaccinated, with their pre-season preparations taking place back in London with the youth teams instead.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Chelsea's friendly against Mexican side Club America, Tuchel was asked if he would take vaccine status into consideration when it came to future transfer targets.

"Yes, it has to [be a factor]," Tuchel said.. "I knew some players who I would also take without vaccination. I have to say, but yes, it is a part of daily life at the moment.

"We cannot force [players to get vaccinated]. It is at the moment a very normal decision to get vaccinated. Both players took the decision not to. We need to follow the rules. They cannot join us. They know about the consequences.

"We don't like it. Of course not. We would love to have them here and it is not an ideal solution. Far from ideal. But, once the situation is like this you need to come up with a solution.

"They train with the Under-23s. Then they go with the Under-19s... but it will not compensate. It will not be the same [as being with the first team]."

Chelsea went on to secure a 2-1 win against Club America on Saturday thanks to second-half goals from Timo Werner and Mason Mount either side of a Reece James own goal.

After the victory, Tuchel was asked by reporters about the arrival of Kalidou Koulibaly, who joined Chelsea on Saturday from Napoli for a reported fee of £33.8million (€40m).

"He brings experience, quality, top defending, quality, height, everything we're looking for to play a back three of back four," Tuchel said about his new centre-back. 

"It's a brilliant signing, another brilliant signing for us, and we hope that he can show his quality as soon as possible. He is now training outside after he arrived yesterday, and we're very happy.

"He knows some of the players – he plays with [Edouard Mendy] with the national team and knows [Jorginho] from Napoli – so I think from this side, it will be quick that he feels welcome in the group. It's a nice group, and everyone is happy he is with us now."

The 31-year-old will likely line up alongside Thiago Silva, who joined the club two seasons ago as a 35-year-old, and Tuchel is backing Koulibaly to have a similar impact to the Brazil international despite arriving in the latter stages of his career.

"That's what we believe [that his peak years are still to come], and that's what he is here for," the Blues head coach added.

"There were always rumours about him leaving Napoli, and it was always super difficult – and in the end impossible – to get him because he was a key player.

"It's nice he takes the challenge right now, and we have Thiago Silva, who is even older and super experienced and still at the peak of his game.

"We hope Kalidou can do the same and play for many years for us. He is totally fit and ready for the challenge, and he needs to be because we need him in top shape."

Kalidou Koulibaly has said goodbye to Napoli as he nears a move to Chelsea, saying: "you have been everything for me".

The centre-back joined Napoli in 2014 from Genk and spent eight years with the Italian club, winning the Supercoppa Italiana in 2014 as well as the Coppa Italia in 2020.

But he is now set to join Chelsea in a deal reported to be worth £34million.

He will look to help Chelsea close the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City, after the Londoners finished 18 points off second place and 19 adrift of top spot in the 2021-22 campaign.

The Senegal defender posted an Instagram post on Friday, where he bid farewell to the Napoli fans.

The caption read: "Victories, defeats, joys, disappointments. Too many emotions lived together: impossible to summarise them. But I keep everything: in my mind, in my heart.

"My two children were born in Naples. I have met people who will always be part of my life and who made me and my family feel at home: from the first to the last moment. Thanks to you, Naples, I became the man I am today.

"Thanks to the club, the president, the coaches, all my team-mates and all the people I have had the pleasure of working with over the years. Thank you, Naples and Neapolitans, for all the love we have given each other.

"Now I feel I have to leave and get back into the game: it's time for a new adventure. Go Napoli forever."

 

Thomas Tuchel has achieved his "top priority" for the transfer window by signing Raheem Sterling, while the Chelsea head coach cannot foresee Robert Lewandowski arriving.

Sterling joined Manchester City for a reported fee in the region of £45million on Wednesday, as Chelsea confirmed their first signing since Todd Boehly's consortium acquired the Blues.

The England international, who signed a five-year deal with Chelsea, scored 17 goals in all competitions for City last season, a tally bettered by only Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19).

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo has also been linked to Stamford Bridge, alongside Barcelona's top target Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals in all competitions last term, the most of any player across Europe's top five leagues, and Tuchel appreciates his quality but does not envisage bringing him in.

"I don't think we have a chance for Lewandowski but if there is a chance, he is one of the best number nines," said Tuchel.

"The priority is not on the number nine position right now. We have our top priority [Sterling], we have got our top priority signed. It makes me very, very happy and from there we are very flexible.

"He was the absolute number one for that position. I gave his name to Todd straight away. Every time we played against him, he's horrible to play against, horrible!

"The main point is his intensity and the amount of repetition of intensity that he delivers. This is simply outstanding over the last years.

"It's exactly what we need to raise the level of our players. That's why we are so sure and that's why he was, for us, top of the list.

"Our goal threat should be enough right now. If we think something crazy comes up that we don’t see, maybe we will get involved, maybe not."

 

The versatile Sterling is expected to bring experience to the Chelsea attack, a feature lacking at the back for the Blues after the departure of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

Cesar Azpilicueta is reportedly wanted by Barca as well, while Chelsea appear set to bring in Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly to somewhat fill the void in defence.

The minimum requirement for success under Boehly will be a top-four Premier League finish to qualify for the Champions League, and Tuchel acknowledged he must rebuild to develop a competitive squad.

"I think with Thiago [Silva] in the middle, Toni on the left and Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] or Andreas [on the right] we had the best back-three in the world," he added.

"It's possible [to rebuild at short notice]. We can, we have to. I think we can put a structure in place and we have a structure on which we can rely on.

"For example, if we play against Everton, Thiago can play, Trevoh Chalobah can hopefully play, and Azpi is at the moment here. 

"If there are guys still to be signed or not fully aware of the principles, I don't want to use it as an excuse. When I came in, I had one day to start with the back-three because it was a fit and I still think it will be a fit.

"The first 10 days or 11 days with the group have been outstanding. The mentality, worth ethic and quality in training is absolutely impressive and this makes me very happy.

"I want to be ready when we play Everton. I want to win and I will demand it from myself, my team and all my players.

"The team will be strong. I am not ready to use it as an excuse even though it is maybe true that we are in transition. We can, I can focus, I think the team can focus on what makes us strong and we can take it step by step and work out how to win games."

While Chelsea made their long-awaited first signing in Sterling, top-four rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City have all been busy in the transfer window.

Tuchel was quick to hail the transfer dealings of Antonio Conte, who looks set to seal his sixth signing of the transfer window in Djed Spence, and conceded Chelsea will have to catch up with their competitors.

"I mean it when I said we fight against the best teams and the best coaches, which does not make life easier and they set the bar so high last season, but we start again from scratch," said Tuchel. 

"So we will try again. I can promise you that everybody is ready to try again. We will not give in before we play games. That's why the sanctions did not help. We lost important players and the other teams are recruiting, and did not have the losses that we had.

"If you look at the transfer period of Tottenham with Antonio Conte, it's maybe the strongest team they ever built. Manchester United will not give in, Arsenal will not give in, they've made two big signings already, so we are aware of the situation and try to do our best to be competitive."

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