Transfer Talk: Chelsea hot on Chicago Fire No1 Slonina
Chelsea have plenty of young talent in their ranks — and Gabriel Slonina could be the next hot prospect to arrive at Stamford Bridge.
The Chicago Fire goalkeeper is reportedly attracting plenty of admirers, including European champions Real Madrid.
But recent reports suggest that Thomas Tuchel's outfit have edged to the front of the queue for the in-demand stopper.
We take a look at what Slonina would offer the Blues if he arrives in West London this summer.
Slonina became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history to start a match when he made his Chicago Fire debut aged 17 years and 81 days in August 2021.
The custodian marked his first appearance with a clean sheet and a place in the MLS Team of the Week — and he has not looked back since.
His rapid emergence has seen him included in two separate USA squads, although he is yet to receive his first cap.
Now 18, the Illinois native was recently selected by Poland but rejected the call-up in favour of representing the Stars and Stripes.
A top stopper
Slonina uses his 6ft 4in frame to great effect — closing down angles quickly and affording strikers little space to aim at.
The Fire No1 has kept six clean sheets during the 2022 MLS season, which is currently the joint-second most in the division.
He is proactive between the sticks and is not afraid to rush off his line in order to nullify any danger in the 18-yard box.
Plenty of potential
As is expected with a goalkeeper of his age, Slonina is occasionally prone to an error — though that is something which will surely be rectified with more experience.
After all, he has long been tipped for stardom and became the second-youngest signing in MLS history at just 14.
The USA Under-20s international has been compared to former Chelsea stopper Thibaut Courtois — and the Blues may wish to develop Slonina in a similar manner if he signs.
Courtois blossomed by gaining experience on loan elsewhere before eventually returning to Stamford Bridge and displacing club legend Petr Cech in goal.
Slonina is en route to becoming a household name among American fans despite the fact that he has only made 26 league appearances.
And the custodian has received plenty of praise already, including from USA legend Tony Meola.
Speaking in January, the 100-cap keeper said: "He reminds me very much of a young Gigi Buffon. He's one day going to be the US men's national team starting goalkeeper.
"I look at the pathway, and I think the pathway for him is that within the next 24 months he's going to be in Europe and needs to be in Europe."
The Blues' goalkeeping options are set to be depleted this summer, with Kepa Arrizabalaga expected to leave Stamford Bridge.
If that is the case, Tuchel will only have Marcus Bettinelli — who made just one FA Cup appearance last season — as a back-up to Edouard Mendy.
That will likely force the Blues into the market for a new goalkeeper — and Slonina is believed to be their priority.
The talented youngster would provide additional cover now, while also being a wise investment for the future.