Chelsea have reportedly identified Stuttgart striker Sasa Kalajdzic as a potential transfer target if their move for Erling Haaland does not happen.
The Blues are understood to have had an opening player-plus-cash bid for Haaland rejected last week, which means the Premier League side may look elsewhere to add to their forward line this summer.
Austrian Kalajdzic scored an impressive 17 goals in all competitions for the Bundesliga side last season, with Chelsea’s domestic rivals Tottenham and Dortmund – if Haaland leaves – also said to be interested.
Below, Sportsmail runs the rule over the Stuttgart giant, who scored a fine goal against eventual tournament winners Italy in the Euro 2020 last 16, and identifies what Blues fans could expect from him if he were to move to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are reportedly interested in signing Austrian striker Sasa Kalajdzic (pic above)
The Blues are looking at alternative options after their bid for Erling Haaland was rejected
What’s he like as a player?
Kalajdzic is a physically imposing target man, standing at 6’7″, almost two metres tall. That kind of stature is near-unique in the Premier League at the moment, and provides an uncommon threat from crosses, set-pieces and in both boxes.
Although he currently has a relatively slight frame, the 24-year-old won 57.1 per cent of his aerial duels last year and is rarely bullied by defenders – revealing last year that he has been described as an ‘Ibrahimovic-machine’.
He is proficient with flick-ons from long passes to feed pacy onrushing team-mates, for example Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi, but the 11-cap international can also take the ball down, protect it using his body and bring other attackers into play.
Like former Liverpool and England striker Peter Crouch, his height belies a good first touch and strong technical abilities, thanks to playing in holding midfield in his youth. He also has an eye for a trick and is capable of finishing with both feet.
Kalajdzic had a stellar season for Stuttgart last campaign – graphic provided by sofascore.com
What’s his current situation at Stuttgart?
He has two years left on the four-year deal he signed back in July 2019, meaning the club could be willing to sell him this season rather than risk losing him on a free the campaign after.
In April it was reported that Tottenham were interested in him, with a fee of £15million mentioned, but given his strong end to the campaign and his impressive performances at Euro 2020, that could now be significantly higher.
Stuttgart sold key forward Nico Gonzalez to Fiorentina for £20m in June, are under no immediate financial pressure to sell, and would be unwilling to lose last season’s top scorer, with the Athletic reporting they could demand more than £30m for him.
The Stuttgart forward scored 17 goals in all competitions for the Bundesliga side last season
Chelsea and owner Roman Abramovich are hardly penny-pinchers, but that kind of fee for a player who is likely to be a squad player at first may prove a sizeable disincentive.
How would he fit into Thomas Tuchel’s style of play?
Chelsea are not currently blessed with striker options at the moment, with Olivier Giroud now at AC Milan, plus Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi linked with moves away.
German duo Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, signed for an initial combined £110m last summer, are not natural No 9s and have shown inconsistent form, especially in terms of goalscoring – although Havertz impressed as a false nine later in the season.
Blues manager Thomas Tuchel (left) could sign him if the club fail to secure Erling Haaland
The former Admira Wacker man would likely be a backup option at first, regularly coming off the bench to influence games or allow a more direct style of play, starting domestic and European cup matches.
He is also a fiercely determined character, as proven by his comeback from a cruciate ligament injury in a pre-season camp shortly after signing for Stuttgart. He worked hard at his recovery, and the next year he was playing at Euro 2020.
Would he be willing to move?
In a word, yes. Even though the Vienna-born star wouldn’t walk into a secure spot in the starting team, the Premier League would be an attractive proposition for him, with personal terms unlikely to be a sticking point.
With Timo Werner maybe more suited to play out wide, Kalajdzic may be a good central option
With Liverpool reportedly interested, he told Bild in March: ‘I feel completely at home at VfB, but it would be a really tough decision because I really like Liverpool. This club is simply special to me.
‘When I was a kid, I saw the Champions League final when Liverpool came back from 3-0 down against Milan to win. That gripped me. The last time I went to a Liverpool game, I really kitted myself out: I bought myself a scarf, jersey, cap and a mug.’
He also views former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, also of Serbian descent, as an idol, so has a slight connection to Stamford Bridge.