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Following Niklas Sule’s major contract dispute with Bayern Munich, a number of Premier League clubs including Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United expressed interest in acquiring his services on a free transfer in the summer of 2022. In the end the German international made the switch to Bayern’s Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund once his contract expired in the summer.
Chelsea’s interest in Sule can be dated way back to Antonio Conte’s time at the helm in west London when he was scouted as a possible acquisition to re-shape and re-structure the defence in SW6 but at the time he preferred a move to Bayern from Hoffenheim.
Sule featured 171 times for Bayern over five seasons before ultimately choosing to join Dortmund on June 1 over a potential move to the Premier League. Chelsea, Manchester United and Spurs were all in desperate need of defensive reinforcements at the start of the year, especially as the Blues were set to lose both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen at the end of their contracts.
Instead of signing Sule though, Chelsea brought in Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana from Napoli and Leicester City, respectively, as part of a £250m summer spending spree at the behest of new co-owner Todd Boehly.
Koulibaly and Fofana have endured mixed starts to life at Stamford Bridge, with the latter absent since picking up a knee injury a few months ago in the Champions League against AC Milan after scored his first Chelsea goal.
Senegalese defender Koulibaly has featured sporadically in the Blues back line this season, following some minor injury problems and regular rotation with Marc Cucurella, but has looked solid if unspectacular for the most part.
Meanwhile, Sule has made 12 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund, with many of those coming on the right of a back four which has included getting one goal and two assists this season.
His displays at full-back saw him deployed in that position in Germany’s World Cup opener with Japan, but the 27-year-old struggled significantly and could have been blamed for his role in both of the opposition’s goals.
Brighton star Kaoru Mitoma was allowed to make a run inside by Sule with the resulting cross finished by Ritsu Doan and Sule then played Takuma Asano comfortably onside, with the Japanese star going on to finish beyond Manuel Neuer.
At full time, Ian Wright was quick to lay the blame at the feet of Sule, particularly for his role in Japan’s winning goal, where he was caught several yards behind the German defensive line.
Wright said: “With Sule, they seemed to target him and here he was at fault. This is just a free-kick, you’re not meant to see a goal like the second goal they scored. He has dropped in and played him inside, poor play. But that touch is quality, that’s the quality, and bang.”