Pochettino: Lukaku needs to come back to Chelsea (1:01)

New Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino says Inter loanee Romelu Lukaku is due to return to the Premier League club later in July. (1:01)

Julien Laurens, CorrespondentJul 11, 2023, 02:34 PM ET

Chelsea are preparing to make an opening offer for Lyon wonderkid Rayan Cherki as they seek a replacement for Christian Pulisic, sources have told ESPN.

Pulisic is closing in on a move to AC Milan, with the United States midfielder due to undergo a medical with the Serie A giants in the next 24 hours, ESPN reported Tuesday.

And Chelsea are already moving to replace Pulisic, with Cherki one of the targets. Elye Wahi, the talented Montpellier centre-forward, is also on the London club’s shortlist.

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Cherki, who was born in Lyon and is a product of the club’s youth system, is valued at around €40 million and is under contract until June 2025 after an automatic one year extension was triggered in April when he reached 15 Ligue 1 starts.

His wages were automatically increased at the time, too, and he currently earns €75,000-a-week gross.

French champions Paris Saint-Germain had an offer for Cherki rejected by Lyon in January but Lyon were open to a sale. Lyon’s recent troubles adhering to France’s financial fair play rules over next season’s budget means they may be forced to let some players go if they want to make signings this summer.

Chelsea and Lyon, both owned by Americans, have a good relationship following the transfer of Malo Gusto to Stamford Bridge in January.

Cherki, an attacking midfielder who will turn 20 in August, is rated as one of the best players of his generation and has been on Chelsea’s radar for some time. The club’s scouts watched him again at length during the recent UEFA Under-21 European Championship where he shone with France, despite a disappointing quarterfinal exit to Ukraine.

Cherki, who is equally capable with his right and left foot and takes corners and free kicks with both feet, offers great versatility as he can play in every attacking position from winger to second striker, No. 10 and even false 9 potentially. Last season was his best yet with four goals and six assists in 21 starts in Ligue 1.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are also monitoring the situation of highly rated Montpellier striker Wahi, as first revealed by L’Equipe newspaper on Tuesday and confirmed by sources to ESPN.

The 20-year-old, who is under contract until June 2025, was also part of France’s U21 squad earlier this month and was superb in Ligue 1 last season with 19 goals in 33 appearances. Montpellier are prepared to let him leave for a fee of €30m. A couple of other English clubs are also following Wahi.

Both Cherki and Wahi would fit with the youth-centered transfer policy implemented at Chelsea since the takeover by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital last year.