Zola announces Chelsea deal ‘was close’ and De Boer tells De Ligt to make Prem Move

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Gianfranco Zola has revealed Chelsea came agonisingly close to signing Nicolo Barella as Cesc Fabregas’ long-term replacement in January.

Fabregas ended months of transfer speculation by deciding to leave during the winter window and signed for French side Monaco, after he was granted a free transfer away from the club.

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We failed to sign a direct replacement, but did secure the services of Christian Pulisic who was immediately loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the season.

And Zola has confirmed Cagliari’s Barella was close to joining  during the winter window.

‘We were so close,’ Zola told Gazzetta dello Sport.

‘He’s strong and Sarri has always liked him, but then things fell through

‘I gave Nicolo his debut at Parma in the Coppa Italia. At 17 he had the tools and character of the great player, but to play for a big club he must grow. His attitude isn’t lacking.’

Meanwhile, Ronald de Boer has advised Ajax wonderkid Matthijs de Ligt to join the Premier League.

The talented defender has become one of the most sought after talents in world football after helping the Dutch giants reach the Semi-Finals of the Champions League, and he is expected to leave Ajax at the end of the season

It is believed the likes of Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain are leading the chase to complete a £75 million deal, as the youngster has shown a desire to make either move.

But De Boer, assistant manager of Ajax A1, insists De Ligt could ‘easily’ play in the Premier League.

He told talkSPORT: “For me, a 19-year-old boy, captain of Ajax, he’s the guy who is next to [Virgil] van Dijk in the [Dutch] national team.

“He’s so strong, determined to be a winner, unbelievable. You can see it in front of the camera, his interviews, I’ve never seen it from a 19-year-old boy.

“For me, he can play in every team, if he goes to a defending or attacking team. He’s so good.

“He can easily come to the Premier League – he can choose any team in the world.”

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