CHELSEA have reportedly lost their battle to keep hold of Antonio Rudiger who seems set to join Real Madrid.
The 30-year-old will draw the curtain on his spell in West London when his contract expires in June.
And the defender has already agreed to a verbal contract with Real Madrid despite Chelsea's numerous attempts to keep him at Stamford Bridge.
Rudiger's departure will create a vacuum in the Blues' defence that needs to be filled.
But Chelsea fans need not despair as SunSport have identified five transfer prospects that can fill Rudiger's boots.
The quintet is made up of Sevilla ace Jules Kounde, Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt, Real Madrid rock Eder Militao, Villarreal enforcer Pau Torres, and Blues academy ace Levi Colwill.
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Sevilla ace Jules Kounde has been on top of Chelsea's wishlist since last summer.
The Blues came agonisingly close to signing the French powerhouse, but the transfer fell apart at the last minute due to a discrepancy with the Spanish outfit over his £68.5million release clause.
Sevilla's reluctance to sell infuriated Kounde who openly admitted the transfer fiasco affected him mentally.
But with Rudiger heading to Madrid, the 23-year-old would waltz right into the heart of Chelsea's back four.
However, the Blues face competition from Barcelona, who are also hot on Kounde's heels.
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Matthijs de Ligt
Another option for Chelsea is Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt.
De Ligt has helped Juve record the lowest goals conceded among the top four in Serie A so far this season.
And the Blues have identified the 22-year-old as another alternative to rebuild their defence around next season.
The Dutch defender is reportedly flattered by Chelsea's interest and likes the idea of living in London.
But yet again, the Blues may have to lock horns with Barca who want to bring him to the Nou Camp.
If Barca are successful in recruiting De Ligt and Kounde, another centre back the Blues have been linked with is Real ace Eder Militao.
The Blues were reportedly sending representatives to meet with the 24-year-old's representatives in February.
Militao has three years left on his Los Blancos' contract but could be cajoled into a move elsewhere in a bid for higher wages.
The robust Brazilian is one of the lowest-paid players in Real's squad despite being a key player in the LaLiga leaders squad this season.
And the Blues might be able to offer Militao higher wages when their new owners are unveiled this month.
Pau Torres has also caught the eye of Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel.
The Villarreal centre-back has been instrumental in the LaLiga side's rise in the Champions League this season.
The Yellow Submariners dumped Bayern Munich out of the competition in the quarter-finals and face Liverpool in the semi's with the first leg taking place on Wednesday.
And the Spanish ace is reportedly open to offers when the current campaign concludes.
Torres' contract expires in 2024, although he does have a release clause of around £49million.
However, Man United are set to rival Chelsea's interest in Torres and are willing to offload Eric Bailly and Phil Jones to recruit him.
But Chelsea's replacement for Rudiger could be closer to home.
Blues academy star Levi Colwill has been making waves on loan for Huddersfield.
The 19-year-old's been a revelation at the Championship side since joining them in 2021 on loan from boyhood club Chelsea.
Colwill has appeared 27 times for Huddersfield this season, and helped the club cement their place in the playoff positions.
The youngster's impressive displays have seen him compared to Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand.
But the Blues will have to move fast if they want to keep hold of the promising English centre back as several sides including Everton, Leicester City, and Southampton are keeping a close eye on him.
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