Pre-season training at Chelsea is underway. Some of the players are away after their exertions at Euro 12, while some are expected to join up with their national Olympic squads and therefore, it’ll still be a while before manager Roberto Di Matteo addresses a ‘full squad’ for the first time. New signings Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Marko Marin have reported for duty. Infact both De Bruyne and Marin trained together at the club’s Cobham base much before the rest of the players arrived.
However, there is still a long way to go before Chelsea’s squad is perfectly assembled and ready to challenge on not just the usual four, but on seven fronts this season. The Community Shield, UEFA Supercup and the Club World Cup adds to the fixture list. One of the problems of having a squad full of international players means that they have to also report for national team duty when called. Suffice to say that if Chelsea are to make the most of this unique opportunity to add more silverware, there is an urgent need for not just a large squad, but one that is also competitive.
When Chelsea did the League and F.A.Cup double under Carlo Ancelotti in the 2009 – 2010 season, the board and the manager made a grave error. Chelsea could have chosen to consolidate upon their title win, instead the club decided to let go of five senior players – Joe Cole, Ricardo Carvalho, Juliano Beletti, Deco and Micheal Ballack. And the replacements joined in from within the academy. Josh McEachran, Jeffrey Bruma, Gael Kakuta, Sam Hutchinson and Billy Clifford were all introduced to the first team.
It was a noble effort, but trying to integrate five young players into the squad eventually proved to be too ambitious and the lack of depth started to show. With Ramires and Yossi Benayoun as the only two major signings of the summer(David Luiz and Torres signed only in the winter), Chelsea almost made up a 15 point deficit on eventual champions Manchester United, but lost to the Old Trafford team away from home in a pivotal fixture. Manchester United weren’t particularly strong that season, and in hindsight, there is definitely a feeling that Chelsea could have won back to back titles if the club had had more quality and squad depth.
Drawing from the signings that Chelsea has so far made this summer and going by the muttering through the transfer grapevine, it seems that the issue of squad depth is certainly being addressed. Didier Drogba, Jose Bosingwa and Salomon Kalou have bid their goodbyes with the club securing Hazard, Marin and De Bruyne thus far. So, let us take a look at what this summer promises to bring further, for the Chelsea faithful.
POTENTIAL TARGETS AND LIKELY ARRIVALS
Hulk – This one has been going on for a while now. There has been talk that Chelsea and Porto had agreed upon a fee (when there were a flood of reports saying it had been done), however, Porto only own 85% of his rights (which finds a mention here). And the Premier League’s strict rules on third party ownership means that Porto now have to buy 15% of his rights from Urguayan club Renistas who own it (though he hasn’t played ever for them). This complicated situation has effectively put negotiations in a limbo. Chelsea’s unwillingness to go any further than a 30m fee means that this could very well drag on right until the end of the window.
Maicon – Rumors about the Brazilian full back as a surprise link to Chelsea abound, with various reports emerging not out of England or Italy, but out of Spain (thanks to Madrid’s prolonged interest in the player) mentioning that a deal between Inter and Chelsea had been agreed for just a price of 6m. Conflicting reports now emerge that Madrid might still have to say something about the transfer because Mourinho sees Maicon as ideal competition for Arbeloa.
Should he eventually sign for Chelsea, Maicon will prove to be an astute signing for the club. The Euros witnessed Van Der Weil, Mathieu Debuchy, Joao Perreira, Lucasz Piszczek et al, but, neither of these full backs had an air of convincing authority about them. Piszczek was perhaps the best of the lot, but would be an expensive signing and at 27, is not going to have much of a resale value. It then makes sense for the London club to sign a proven performer in Maicon at a relatively cheap price and perhaps look into the market at a later stage. Also, one must not forget about Branislav Ivanovic’s normally assured presence in the Chelsea team.
Victor Moses – The 10m rated Wigan man can play across the front three and has apparently completed the most amount of successful dribbles this past season. Chelsea made a 3.5m opening bid which was swiftly rejected by the Wigan chairman. Thereafter, it seems like Chelsea have upped the ante by doubling the initial bid and with add on clauses inserted, it does match upto Wigan’s 10m demand. Wigan however would like more cash upfront as they owe 20% of Moses sell on fee to his former club Crystal Palace. (And we now know how Wigan managed to sign him back then, when top clubs were after him).
The question on everybody’s minds seems to be about just where Moses fits in. Moses plays the right forward position predominantly and his signing interferes with the interests of both Sturridge and Hulk. Does this signal the end of the road for Daniel Sturridge at Chelsea? Or does this mean Chelsea will end their interest in Hulk? Only time will tell. However, with his agent having vowed to try everything possible to get him to Chelsea, this is one transfer that could come to a swift conclusion.
Stevan Jovetic – The Montenegrin-born 22-year-old player is another in an array of attacking players linked with the Stamford Bridge natives. His parent club Fiorentina do not want to sell him, but ‘The Viola’ are in need of urgent restructuring and repairs after finishing a lowly 13th in the table this season. Jovetic is still only young and can afford to stick with Fiorentina as they intend to build a team around him. However with not just Chelsea, but Liverpool and Arsenal also in the fray, their resolve is sure to be tested this summer. Word on the street is that a 20m bid would persuade the team from Florence to part with their prized asset.
Stevan Jovetic is likely to be seen as a younger back up to Fernando Torres. However the versatile forward is capable of playing as a proper number 10 and is certain to add to Chelsea’s attacking depth. His maturity belies his age and he showed his strength of character when he recovered after a season out through a cruciate ligament injury to shine bright with 14 goals and 3 assists, in an ultimately disappointing season for Fiorentina.
Luka Modric – While Chelsea haven’t yet actively shown any signs of signalling interest in the Croatian this summer, the media have nevertheless helped stir the pot. The story so far seems to be that Tottenham would rather sell him to a club abroad than in England which puts Real Madrid at the front of the queue. If recent reports are to be believed, Modric has agreed personal terms with the Spanish giants and is believed to be on his way to the Bernabeu. However a quintessential twist to the tale is provided by Madrid’s inability to pay a 35m fee upfront (they need to offload a few players) and also by Nuri Sahin’s unwillingness to replace Modric at Tottenham, thereby ruling out any possibly of a potential swap.
As has been mentioned earlier on TheHardTackle, there is no doubt that Modric’s signing would strengthen Chelsea significantly. But Chelsea has maintained a low profile as far as the Modric case is concerned. It is quite possible that unlike last summer, Chelsea are playing this out in a quieter manner and a last minute shock bid to blow competition out of the water cannot be ruled out just yet. It is a position where Chelsea are well stocked and therefore can very much afford to wait until the final stages of the summer window. However, hopes are best kept at a minimum on this front.
THE LIKELY EXITS
Raul Meireles – It is rumored that the tattooed Portuguese midfielder is a serious target for Napoli and is wanting out of Chelsea. However Chelsea are likely to weigh their options before depleting their settled midfield. Meireles on his part refused to be drawn into talks about Napoli’s interest.
Daniel Sturridge – Victor Moses’ capture could possibly trigger a flurry of activity at Chelsea. It could set the wheels in motion and the fans will hope for a chronology of events to transpire in this manner – Moses In > Sturridge Out (Spurs) > Modric In > Meireles Out(Napoli). If the club still retains an interest in Luka Modric, there is every possibility that Daniel Sturridge could be offered to the North Londoners in a cash + swap deal. There is also interest in Sturridge from Liverpool.
Florent Malouda – Seems like the French winger is certain to leave Chelsea this season after a disappointing final season at the club personally. Brazil’s Vasco Da Gama seems to be the likely destination as the player is also married to a Brazilian.
FROM THE TWEET STREET/ITK
Disclaimer: Here’s a bunch of rumors that may just grow as market conditions change. Or maybe they’re born out of people putting two and two together. Believe what you will and don’t shoot the messenger.
Last night there was talk of Chelsea having a meeting with Bastian Schweinsteiger’s agent over the weekend. After all Roman Abramovich did visit the German camp during the Euros and spoke with Schweini. So is it just conjuncture? Or is the Russian billionaire making the initial moves before pulling off a coup? Either way, the Germans will be wary should this story develop.
Apparently Chelsea have made an informal inquiry about Adam Johnson too. And there are some murmurs about Matt Jarvis buying a house near Cobham. Remember Andre Schurrle? Everything’s gone very quiet on that front. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
That’s all folks.