Chelsea want to hold talks with Bayer Leverkusen’s Tim Steidten over their sporting director role after missing out on Red Bull Salzburg’s Christoph Freund.
Chelsea were confident of bolstering their recruitment department by hiring Freund, whose appointment had received the blessing of Chelsea’s new head coach, Graham Potter, but the deal broke down after the Austrian had a late change of heart over leaving his post.
The 45-year-old has been influenced by Salzburg’s reluctance to lose him. Freund, who has previously rejected an offer from Ajax, recently signed a new four-year deal and Chelsea are considering alternative targets. One option is Steidten, who dealt with Chelsea over Callum Hudson-Odoi’s recent loan move to Leverkusen, and Leeds United’s Victor Orta has also been discussed.
Salzburg were aggressive in their push to keep Freund. In a statement confirming that their man is staying, Salzburg’s chief executive, Stephan Reiter, said: “Of course he informed me about Chelsea FC’s interest in him and we exchanged ideas on a personal level and in good conversations. The fact is that he will remain our sporting director.”
Freund said: “Chelsea was interested in me. When a big club asks, it is a circumstance that entails personal considerations. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m in the best of hands with RB Salzburg and that a change is out of the question for me.”
Chelsea’s owners, Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, experienced a frantic first transfer window and are keen to make an appointment before the World Cup begins in November. Boehly appointed himself as interim sporting director after Marina Granovskaia left in June and the American does not want to be in charge of transfers long-term.
Chelsea have previously experienced frustration regarding their hopes of hiring the former Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards, who has also been linked with Manchester United.
Part of Steidten’s appeal to Chelsea is that, like Freund, he puts heavy focus on data when it comes to finding players. The 43-year-old initially joined Leverkusen as their squad planner in 2019.
A potential complication, though, is that he became the Bundesliga side’s sporting director only last summer, stepping up when Simon Rolfes was promoted to managing director of sport.
Chelsea, who could also look to appoint a technical director, are considering whether to ask Leeds for permission to speak to Orta. They dealt with the Spaniard during their failed attempt to sign the Brazil winger Raphinha, who ended up joining Barcelona. Orta has played a key role in Leeds’s resurgence and has developed a reputation as a canny recruiter.
Whoever becomes Chelsea’s sporting director will need to work with Potter’s recruitment analyst, Kyle Macaulay. The club have also been linked with Monaco’s Paul Mitchell, Atlético Madrid’s Andrea Berta and the former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender Maxwell.