There was nothing Chelsea could do but wait. They knew the moment would come and a decision made by the club in late January meant they couldn’t do anything to stop it.
The bid eventually came from AC Milan: £25million plus a further five in add-ons. And with that Fikayo Tomori was gone.
Within a fortnight of his arrival, he was in the starting XI. Soon club captain Alessio Romagnoli had been ousted from the side permanently and with Tomori in defence, Milan would go on to secure Champions League football for the first time in eight years.
“He is skilful and has great physical attributes,” legendary Italian defender Franco Baresi told The Mail in March. “He is still adapting to the Italian league and I think he can only grow as a defender and help us.
“There is great competition in England, but he is definitely one of the most promising prospects out there. His experience with AC Milan can certainly help him develop as a player.”
And earlier that month, Paolo Maldini said: “Fikayo is a player with interesting qualities. He is quick, hard-working, and was someone we were following closely.”
Chelsea’s decision to include a £25million option to buy in the deal that took Tomori on loan to San Siro in January always appeared somewhat ill-considered. It has only proven more so as this summer has progressed.
Arsenal, for example, are interested in signing Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion and are willing to pay £50million for the defender, who is the same age as Tomori and has just one more England cap.
The hope is that Chelsea will have learned their lesson from the deal that took Tomori to Milan: top-level centre-backs are rare, they shouldn’t come cheap.
And yet the Blues may be repeating the same mistake. And this time Jose Mourinho is involved.
Kurt Zouma’s future at Stamford Bridge is uncertain. The French defender, who was part of Didier Deschamps’ squad for Euro 2020, lost his place in the Chelsea side after the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, with the foursome of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger, and Andreas Christensen preferred for the three centre-back roles.
Interest in the 26-year-old has mounted. TF1 in France have reported Premier League sides Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur have shown interest. Roma are also in the race.
The Serie A side are now managed by Jose Mourinho, who instantly brought Zouma into the first-team fold at Chelsea after he was signed in 2014.
Mourinho has remained an admirer of the centre-back; there were reports that the Portuguese was keen to be united with Zouma when in charge of Tottenham last summer.
Roma can’t afford to sign Zouma permanently this summer but are interested in a loan deal with an option to buy. Fortunately, Chelsea aren’t willing to entertain such an offer.
That again feels on the low side. Yes, the transfer market is still depressed due to the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and Zouma does have just two years left on his contract, but he is a France international, has played 150 times for Chelsea, and has Champions League experience.
Blues director Marina Granovskaia is one of the toughest negotiators in world football and losing Tomori to Milan for less than he was worth would’ve hurt. But with Zouma, there is a chance to show the lesson has been learned. And if that means leaving Mourinho frustrated, so be it.