Like Freund, 43-year-old Steidten is strong on recruitment and data which are attractive qualities to Chelsea’s owners. But just as Freund only signed a new four-year contract with Salzburg in the summer, Steidten was only made Leverkusen’s sporting director ahead of this season and it is uncertain whether or not he would be prepared to make a move so soon.
It is unclear whether or not Chelsea will attempt to speak to Orta, but the fact the 43-year-old’s name has been discussed is intriguing in itself. The Spaniard has been sporting director at Leeds since 2017 and was responsible for hiring Marcelo Bielsa and Jesse Marsch.
Orta has plenty of experience, having previously worked as director of football at Middlesbrough, sporting director at Elche and Zenit Saint-Petersburg, and technical director at Sevilla.
Neil Bath, who has quickly forged a strong working relationship with Chelsea’s new owners, is thought to have been considered for the post, but he has been head of youth development since 2011 and is believed to be happy in that job.
Co-controlling owner Todd Boehly awarded himself the sporting director title on an interim basis during the summer, but Chelsea want a permanent appointment before the World Cup to prepare for the January transfer window.
Confirming his decision to stay at Salzburg, Freund said: “Chelsea was interested in me. When a big club asks, it is a circumstance that entails personal considerations. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m in the best of hands with RB Salzburg and that a change is out of the question for me.”
In a statement, Salzburg chief executive Stephan Reiter added: “Christoph Freund has been doing excellent work for us for many years and only recently extended his contract until 2026. I can hereby confirm that he will remain sporting director of FC Red Bull Salzburg.
“Of course he informed me about Chelsea FC’s interest in him and we exchanged ideas on a personal level and in good conversations. The fact is that he will remain our sporting director. We have not received any inquiries about a possible change.”