Chelsea target Josko Gvardiol has admitted he would “like to” play for Real Madrid with a transfer away from RB Leipzig expected in 2023.
Gvardiol has been spectacular for Leipzig since joining from Dinamo Zagreb in 2021.
The German side paid a reported €18.8million and stand to make one hell of a profit when he eventually moves on.
Many top clubs have been linked with the Croatian youngster – who has thrived at the World Cup despite only being 20 years of age.
He was immense against Belgium on Thursday as his side secured a place in the last 16 with a 0-0 draw.
While he shone for Croatia, Gvardiol did have Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku to thank for the clean sheet.
Manchester City, Chelsea, and Real Madrid are reportedly in the race to sign the 20-year-old centre-half.
The Blues are also working on a deal to sign Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku and the announcement of that transfer appears to be imminent.
It will be slightly more complicated to sign Gvardiol, however.
The young defender recently said Real Madrid are “the biggest club in the world” and admits he aims to play for them one day.
“Real Madrid is the biggest club in the world, so who knows… maybe one day I can play there. I would like to, yes,” Gvardiol said.
Croatia captain Luka Modric has been running the midfield in Madrid for years now, and Gvardiol says he does not need any convincing from his teammate to move to the Spanish capital.
“Luka doesn’t have to tell me anything about Real Madrid, it’s not necessary,” he added. “I already know everything, I know it’s the biggest club in the world and how important it is to be linked to a team like that.”
Fabrizio Romano has since provided an update on Gvardiol’s future.
He explained on Twitter that the race is “still open” and that the player “will get a big transfer in 2023”.
And speaking on his YouTube channel, Romano said: “He is not just a top talent, but also a top professional with a great mentality.
“He is more than a special player, he is also a very great guy I’m told and this is something really appreciated in the dressing room of the Croatian national team, of Leipzig.”
Romano also confirmed Chelsea lodged a huge €85m bid to sign Gvardiol last summer.
Co-owner Todd Boehly put €80m on the table with €5m in add-ons and said Leipzig could keep the player for the 2022-23 campaign. However, Leipzig rejected despite being “tempted”.
The 20-year-old then penned a new contract in September, though it was discussed at the time that his long-term future was not with the Bundesliga club.
“The expectation internally in the club and from people close to the player is clear. Josko Gvardiol will change in 2023,” Romano added.
“He will have the chance to join a top club. This is the plan.”
It is noted that it is unclear whether or not Gvardiol will move in the winter or summer window next year, but a “top move” is the expectation in either window after discussing the matter during contract talks.
Romano has hinted that Chelsea are the frontrunners to sign the Croatian international and believes their negotiations with Leipzig over the signing of Nkunku gives them an advantage due to the “great” relationship between the two clubs.
“Chelsea are still actively working to sign Josko Gvardiol,” the Italian journalist continued.
“Chelsea are there, they are still in touch with people close to the player. They are still in touch with Leipzig. The relationship is great because Chelsea have almost signed Christopher Nkunku.”
It is far from being a done deal as the player keeps “all the options open”.
“The race is still open” with “many clubs” tracking Gvardiol, Romano adds.
It is noted that Chelsea’s London rivals Tottenham were interested in the summer transfer window, but the player was “too expensive”.
Furthermore, Manchester City “have always been tracking Gvardiol” and could make a move in 2023.
Some reports suggested that Gvardiol has a €45m release clause in his Leipzig contract.
Romano says this is not the case, meaning the club who secures his signature will not be getting him on the cheap.
Despite his flirtations with Real Madrid, Gvardiol has also discussed a potential move to Stamford Bridge.
He said: “[Chelsea are] a big club of course and, who knows, maybe one day I will be there. It’s really nice to see things like this, especially because there is [Mateo] Kovacic, so you never know. I talk with him.”