Euro 2016

Belgium's Batshuayi now a blue

New Chelsea signing Michy Batshuayi opened his account for Belgium with a tap-in against Hungary, minutes after coming on.
New Chelsea signing Michy Batshuayi opened his account for Belgium with a tap-in against Hungary, minutes after coming on. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Striker turns down Crystal Palace to become Conte's first signing at Stamford Bridge

LONDON • Chelsea have acted with ruthless efficiency to secure the Belgium forward, Michy Batshuayi, from Marseille in a deal worth an initial €40 million (S$62.4 million) as they seek to kick-start a busy summer of squad strengthening at Stamford Bridge.

Batshuayi, who scored in his country's 4-0 win over Hungary at Euro 2016 on Sunday, had been the subject of bids from West Ham and Juventus earlier this summer before Crystal Palace had a €38 million offer accepted by the Marseille president, Vincent Labrune.

However, the player always had reservations about moving to Selhurst Park and, while Chelsea cannot offer European football next season, their late and surprise entry into the auction effectively turned his head.

The 22-year-old is expected to be granted special dispensation to leave the Belgium squad preparing for tomorrow's quarter-final against Wales in Lille. He had a medical check before signing a five-year contract with Chelsea yesterday.

He will become Antonio Conte's first signing for the club.

While the Belgian's arrival eases the pressure to add to the front line, there remains the possibility the London club could maintain their pursuit of Spain's Alvaro Morata, now back at Real Madrid , as they seek to bolster their options.

Morata would cost in the region of £40 million (S$78.9 million), but any interest in re-signing Romelu Lukaku appears to be petering out.

Batshuayi scored 17 goals in Ligue 1 last season and will become the most expensive sale in Marseille's history, eclipsing the £24 million fee they raised when selling Didier Drogba to Chelsea back in 2004. The player's former club, Standard Liege, are due 35 per cent of the fee through a previous clause.

Having scored within minutes of coming on as a substitute against Hungary, he tweeted after the match saying "When you score with your first touch in the first match of the first Euro of your life #total pride", along a picture of him extravagantly celebrating a goal.

He departs the Stade Velodrome having scored 33 goals in 78 appearances for the club.

His former Marseille team-mate, French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, is expected to join Palace under the Bosman ruling later this week despite late interest from Everton in securing his signature.

Chelsea are committed to adding at least four high-profile names to their ranks this summer but, as yet, have been frustrated in their pursuit of Batshuayi's international team-mate, the Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan .

They intend to purchase an elite centre-half in the weeks ahead with Conte due to take up the reins formally at the club upon the conclusion of Italy's participation at Euro 2016.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Belgium's Batshuayi now a blue'. Print Edition | Subscribe