Rumors are like odors: the more pungent they are, the faster they spread. —Yun Ch'oe
When you’re a fan of a big club like Chelsea, the rumor mill seems like a 24/7 vehicle that churns out speculation of players coming to Stamford Bridge so fast it can make one’s head spin.
Even after the summer transfer window has just closed.
And like before with Luka Modrić, Hulk, Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao and so many others, such is the case again now with Real Madrid after Cristiano Ronaldo said last weekend he was "not happy" with his current club.
Whether this was simply a cry for more money, a reaction to how he feels Real Madrid has treated his best friend Kaká or just a bad day for CR7, newspaper reports that the Portuguese striker was being sought after by the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Anzhi Makhachkala cropped up like worms after a good rainstorm.
Now who really knows what’s up with all of these rumors, but one story has speculated that Blues owner Roman Abramovich is set to battle Manchester City in the biggest bidding war for an athlete in professional sports history in the winter transfer window.
We should all proceed with caution as just this past spring, The Telegraph reported that Abramovich and management were mulling the idea of launching a massive bid to sign both Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuaín, but like so many rumors in the sport these days, absolutely nothing came of it. Both are still at Santiago Bernabéu.
But this is the here and the now, and what fun would it be if we couldn’t speculate a little on what Chelsea would be like should Abramovich throw a massive pile of cash at Ronaldo in an effort to bring him back to the English Premier League and west London? After all, the Blues do still need another striker, right?
So here’s a possible starting XI for Chelsea with Ronaldo in the fold in a funky 4-4-2 formation made specially for the the guy who may soon become the highest-paid sportsman in the Milky Way galaxy.
Rumors are like odors: the more pungent they are, the faster they spread. —Yun Ch'oe
As reliable as they come, Čech will be in goal for Chelsea until he retires or gets injured.
Ross Turnbull, Henrique Hilário and Jamal Blackman are all nice backups, and we all know we have Thibaut Courtois waiting in the wings and sharpening his skills in La Liga with Atlético Madrid.
But the 30-year-old captain of the Czech Republic team is a no-brainer here and a huge reason the Blues won their first European championship in May.
And it's a pretty nice notion to think of having Čech on one end of the pitch and Ronaldo on the other.
The 31-year-old stalwart has been ruled out of England’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine on Tuesday (FSC, 3:00 p.m. ET/12:00 p.m. PT) with an ankle injury sustained against Moldova, and he also fought a couple of nagging injuries last season.
Cole will try to negotiate his contract next summer to stay with Chelsea. His contributions to the club’s success are very evident, and management would be wise to make maximum effort to keep him despite having Ryan Bertrand available as a solid backup and also seemingly ready to crack the starting lineup.
Like Čech and backline mate John Terry, Cole deserves to start every match and would no doubt be in this spot should Abramovich and Co. pull off a major singing coup like Ronaldo, whose buyout clause has been rumored anywhere from £100 million to €1,000,000,000.
That’s right, 10 figures, brother. A million a thousand times. And way, way, way, way, way, way more than the current world record for a transfer of $93 million that Real Madrid paid to wrestle Ronaldo away from Manchester United and Old Trafford back in 2009.
Like teammate Cole, Terry suffered an ankle injury in England’s 5-0 win over Moldova and will miss Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova and possibly Chelsea’s September 15 date at QPR when EPL play resumes.
And although his off-the-field problems aren’t totally behind him quite yet, the 31-year-old Blues captain, who has 49 career goals and one of the strongest headers on the club, is another automatic pencil-in for manager Roberto Di Matteo when healthy and not serving suspensions.
For me, it’s always a tough call between David Luiz and Gary Cahill here, but the way Luiz roamed so far upfield, again, against Atlético Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup embarrassment makes me give the nod to Cahill.
The former Bolton Wanderers star, Cahill has proven he can play and even score a goal once in a blue moon. He deserves to see more time on the pitch than he has since his acquisition.
Another player who roamed a bit too far up the pitch for my taste against Los Rojiblancos in the Super Cup was Ivanović but with José Bosingwa now gone and new kid César Azpilicueta probably not ready just yet for a permanent starting spot in the EPL, the Serbian national team captain deserves this spot until further notice.
And like Terry, Ivanović has a very strong header, unusual for most defenders.
With Michael Essien now gone to Real Madrid on a season-long loan, Mikel will become even more important in an area on the field in which the Blues would also be well served to also address in the winter transfer window.
The 25-year-old Nigerian can be quite effective at times, as he showed in Chelsea’s historic win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in May, and should be in this spot with so many big matches on the horizon.
What Mikel really needs is a solid holding midfielder next to him to shore up what could become a glaring defensive weakness at Stamford Bridge.
Time will tell if management fills this void. For me, the best choice would be Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, who has a big body (6’4.5”), great field awareness, an incredible header and a knack for scoring the big goal.
A very tough pick with so much talent now on the roster. I have to give the nod to Mata here although he is not really known as a defender.
With veteran Frank Lampard showing some signs of slowing down and not totally adjusting to the holding midfield position, Chelsea would be better served to have a faster and younger player on the pitch. Although, when you need a penalty kick banged in (37 for 40 in EPL action), it’s nice to have the 34-year-old Lampard in there to do so.
Other alternatives for this “roving” midfield position I made up to fit this speculative starting XI (with Raul Meireles now gone to Fenerbahce in Turkey in a four-year deal), are Bertrand, Oscar and possibly Ramires if he could focus a bit more on defense than offense.
The versatile Bertrand, who played as a defensive winger against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, would be a great choice, but leaving Mata—the Blues’ Player of the Season in 2011-12—out of the lineup with his skills and future potential is something I just can’t do.
Whether Mata or a fellow advanced midfielder could learn to stay back some and focus more on defense is the key to this spot but with this metamorphosis to a tiki-taka Barcelona style of offense well underway, having more guys like Mata out there seems to be the direction the club is heading.
Should Ronaldo somehow be landed, having pure passers like the Spaniard and Eden Hazard out there will be crucial.
The former Lille OSC star and “right-footed Lionel Messi” has already proven his £32 million deal was well worth the investment for Chelsea. He has quickly become a fan favorite after just three matches in the EPL.
Hazard, who had 20 goals, 17 assists and 14 Man of the Match awards for Les Dogues last season, has so far seemed to play a bit better from the wing and is fairly small (5'7") to be banging with the big boys in the middle in the rough-and-tumble Premiership.
Thoughts of Hazard working with Ronaldo would delight any Blues fan and scare the living daylights out of future opponents. It’s obvious this Belgian will be in the starting XI for years to come.
And with newbies Oscar and Marko Marin fully able to back up Hazard, this is a position where Chelsea can say it currently enjoys a great deal of depth.
Another extremely tough call here, but like Cahill, I’d find a way to start Moses over Ramires, who hasn’t really flourished like many thought on the wing.
The 21-year-old Moses was acquired from Wigan Athletic late in the summer transfer window after strutting his stuff against the Blues in a 2-0 Chelsea win at the DW Stadium in the season league opener.
The talented Nigerian is extremely versatile and can play the left winger position as well as striker. He will be another guy Blues fans will come to love in my opinion, once he gets some playing time and starts putting the ball in the back of the net.
With Romelu Lukaku now off on loan at West Bromwich Albion, Moses also provides a nice alternative for Di Matteo up front at the striker spot, a position Chelsea is fairly thin at, thus the speculation of a run at a guy like Ronaldo or Atlético Madrid’s Falcao, who is probably more likely to be wearing a Blues’ uniform in four months.
Although Ramires may be the fastest player on the roster, led Chelsea in successful dribbles per game and tackles and won the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award last season, I’d have to lean to Moses here. Goal-scoring seems to have become an issue at The Bridge with Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou long gone and Florent Malouda possibly on his way out to Lyon in the near future.
This kid is truly one to watch. Trust me on that. And having Ramires as a backup is a pretty nice problem to have. I can actually see them splitting playing time or see Ramires possibly trying his hand at a defensive holding midfield position.
So this is who all this speculative nonsense is all about.
Already one of the highest-paid players in the world—Ronaldo makes €13m a year (£215,000 a week) for Real Madrid—the 27-year-old is widely considered one of the two best players in the sport right now along with Barcelona’s Messi.
Ronaldo helped lead Los Blancos to La Liga title last season and scored 46 goals in league play and a mind-boggling 60 goals in all competitions.
Another thing to consider is that Ronaldo’s current manager, José Mourinho, is not expected to stay at the Bernabéu forever. The Special One may want to take CR7 with him wherever he goes, although who knows if Ronaldo’s recent issues could be with any decisions Mourinho has made.
While some reports say Manchester City—who are already loaded at striker with Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Džeko—are interested in making a run at Ronaldo this winter, other reports indicate the Sky Blues have absolutely no interest in him.
As far as where he could end up, I suspect Ronaldo would actually rather want to play in the high-profile EPL as opposed to France’s Ligue 1 (PSG) or the Russian Premier League (Anzhi Makhachkala). (Although, I remember writing the same thing here about Drogba months ago.)
As far as fitting in, Ronaldo is a guy you build your starting XI around. He could give Chelsea the chance to have two strikers up front once again and increase the team’s scoring power, which would, in turn, take some pressure off the defense.
Ronaldo is also deadly with his head and an adept passer and, with Fernando Torres, Moses, Mata and Hazard on the pitch beside him, would provide defensive nightmares for all future opponents.
And if you think Chelsea are a high-profile team now, just wait and see what happens should CR7 join this cast in west London.
It will ultimately all come down to how mad Ronaldo really is at Real Madrid, how important being the highest paid player on the planet is to him, how willing Abramovich is to break the bank on the superstar and if his buyout clause is really as embarrassingly high as some reports indicate.
We will be hearing much more about Ronaldo and all of this over the next four months—maybe a bit more than we all really want to.
For a split second, I thought about leaving El Niño off this fantasy starting XI and putting Moses or Daniel Sturridge or even Lucas Piazón here and Ramires on the right wing, but I thought of the comment section below and how much grief I’d get from some readers for leaving their golden child off.
After being anti-Torres for over a year, I have softened my stance on the Spaniard and am now giving him a chance but still remain somewhat skeptical he will ever rise to the form Chelsea thought when they went out and got him from Liverpool in January of 2011.
Torres’s passing still leaves a lot to be desired. He’s often caught flat-footed often, and his timing is still off, which often affects other players on the attack and kills offensive flow.
But leaving Torres off this would be a foolish thing as thoughts of him and Ronaldo up front as dual strikers would totally transform the Blues' sometimes inept offense.
With this possible dynamic duo up top and Mata, Hazard and Moses feeding them from the midfield as well as being able to score at least 10 goals each themselves, Chelsea could return to the prolific form of the 2009-10 season where the Blues racked up 103 goals.
And whether the potential formation is deemed a 4-4-2, a 4-2-2-2 or even a 4-1-3-2, this starting XI has the potential to really excite bluebloods and lessen the sting of Drogba’s departure and wreak havoc on opponents in all the competitions that lie ahead.
So what will happen?
Honestly, I think this is likely just a small blip on the radar and another example of media running amok, but unless you’re a club insider, one never really knows.
But it’s certainly fun to speculate and have a little fun with the notion.
In the end, like Neymar (Santos), Hulk (Porto), Falcao (Atlético Madrid), Cavani (Napoli) and André Schürrle (Bayer Leverkusen), Ronaldo will probably stay put at Real Madrid with his buddy Kaká and one of the three best clubs in the game.
If Chelsea and Abramovich should somehow secure Ronaldo and his superb talents this winter, Blues fans would absolutely lose their collective minds and would also get the added beautiful benefit of having his girlfriend Irina Shayk in the stands, although I would personally rather see Falcao onboard.
And if CR7 does come to Stamford Bridge, a new era with massive expectations would certainly be ushered in, and Chelsea matches would become even more of a spectacle than they are now.
For now, us good little girls and boys will just have to wait a little bit longer to see how Santa Claus treats us.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11