Lille star Gabriel Magalhaes admits he’s flattered by speculation linking him with a big-money move to Chelsea and claims Frank Lampard is a player he greatly ‘admired’ while growing up.
Gabriel, 22, is regarded as one of the finest young defenders in France and his exceptional performances in Ligue 1 this term have caught the attention of some of the Premier League’s top clubs, including Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton.
Lampard witnessed Gabriel’s talents first-hand earlier this season when the Brazilian twice impressed against Chelsea in the Champions League group stage and speculation of a £30million switch to Stamford Bridge has been mounting ever since.
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Chelsea fans have even stormed Gabriel’s social media pages in an attempt to lure him to the club ahead of the summer transfer window and the centre-back has been amused by their attempts to win him over.
Asked about the recent rumours, Gabriel told Brazilian outlet UOL: ‘I follow, but I try to stay apart. I always tell my managers that, at this moment, I want to know as little as possible so as not to lose focus on the pitch.
‘I am happy to see my name being linked with great teams. It shows that the work I’ve done so far has been good.
‘I also see many fans of the two teams commenting on my posts on Instagram [laughs]. It’s funny.’
Gabriel says he looked up to Lampard as a young and aspiring footballer but insists he’s keeping a cool head amid the intense speculation.
Asked about the possibility of being coached by Lampard, Gabriel replied: ‘He was a great player without a doubt.
‘He is one of those players that I admired on the small screen.
‘But we have to be calm with all this. It is early and I renewed my contract with Lille until 2023.
‘The focus now is to return to play and end the season in high level, qualifying Lille for the 2020/21 Champions League.’
Just last week, Lille president Gerard Lopez fuelled rumours of an imminent transfer by claiming that Gabriel is on course to ‘join a really big club’, describing the defender as an ‘absolute machine’.
‘It’s true that he would like to go and try something else out,’ Lopez told Sky Sports.
‘We haven’t taken that decision yet, but he’s received a number of offers. I feel he’s closer to one club than others, but nothing’s done yet so we’ll see.
‘I wouldn’t want to say any more as I respect the player too much. The mechanism I have in place, and we saw that work so well with Nico [Nicolas Pepe], is that I have a certain price in mind for a player, and at the end of the day it’s the player’s choice to go and play where he wants to play – that’s the respect that I have for them.
‘I feel he is among the top five dominant central defenders in Europe right now. His statistics, which aren’t well covered outside of France, shows that his percentage for winning duels is pretty unheard of in a league that’s extremely physical.
‘He’s an absolute machine, so to me, he’s well on his way – if not this year – to potentially a really big club. I’m certain he’s on his way to the Brazilian national team at some point.
‘He’s been linked to two clubs in the UK and he’s clearly been linked to other clubs that have either enquired or moved forward with proposals for him. But we’re not in a hurry and we’re not playing right now. The player isn’t on the pitch.’
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