Chelsea Transfers: Pros and Cons of Potential Striker Targets at Stamford Bridge
There are so many articles here, there and everywhere speculating as to who Chelsea is now pursuing or should try to get over the coming winter transfer market—it’s enough to make one a bit dizzy.
One thing we can all agree on is that the club needs some depth at the striker spot, where the much-maligned Fernando Torres has had to carry the burden this season.
Whether Torres stays or goes is another issue, but with Daniel Sturridge often injured or the subject of transfer rumors and 18-year-old Lucas Piazón still very young and probably not ready for the big show quite yet, the Blues do need to sign one or possibly two strikers next month.
But don’t kid yourself: There will be no quick fix at Stamford Bridge in January, whomever owner Roman Abramovich and his management decide to sign.
One thing sorely lacking in almost all these speculative stories is the fact that some of the candidates may not necessarily want to come to Chelsea, no matter how much we all pretend everyone wants to play for our European champions.
Also, their current teams and the fans of those clubs most definitely will not want to part with one of their key players.
And it’s also important to consider that some of the luster of playing for the Blues has undoubtedly diminished during this current icy patch which has seen a beloved manager given his walking papers and the team now on the brink of elimination in the UEFA Champions League.
Many star players agree to be sold because they desperately want to play Champions League football, and if Chelsea continues this slide and doesn’t qualify for the tournament next season—unless it can pull off the miracle of all miracles again and move on to the knockout stage on Wednesday—then its chances of landing a guy like Radamel Falcao will be greatly diminished, if not totally disintegrated.
Anyway, here are seven attacking players (not counting Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini) whose names have been bandied about in the newspapers lately and the various pros and cons I see of signing each of them.
“Who are they going to buy? That’s the big question isn’t it? Of course we can name names but reasonably, who’s going to let any of their real big good players go in January? What big team?” —Steve McManaman, ESPN commentator on Chelsea’s need to pursue a striker in the coming winter transfer window during Saturday’s telecast at West Ham United.
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The player most Chelsea fans now hope will come to Stamford Bridge and try to save the day is Atlético Madrid’s Radamel Falcao.
But this signing would truly test the depths of Abramovich’s deep pockets, and after spending so much—some say gambling—on Torres two years ago, the Russian billionaire and the club may now be a bit gun-shy.
The Colombian international has an astronomic €60 million release clause in his Atlético contract and may now more likely be seen as a long-range target for the Blues.
A month ago, many thought the 26-year-old would undoubtedly sign with Chelsea, but now with the Blues scuffling and Los Rojiblancos just six points behind Barcelona and in the thick of the La Liga race with Champions League qualification next season a very good possibility, it seems Falcao may just stay put in Spain.
Blues fans can all romanticize the notion of obtaining Falcao, but if Chelsea will be playing in the Europa League, why would he want to come?
And a recent report in The Daily Mirror said the talented striker has no intentions of leaving Atlético.
"At Atlético Madrid I have a contract for three more years and I will not at this time think about future," Falcao told DIRECTV.
If Falcao does somehow end up coming to the Blues he should provide instant scoring, and it's likely he will become an instant fan favorite. He also could work better with the advanced midfield troika of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar better than Torres has.
The downsides are that El Tigre would probably end up being way too expensive—The Telegraph recently reported that Falcao could be fetch up to £100 million. Plus, he could get injured, and there is no guarantee he will be able continue his hot streak.
And although he has scored 11 goals for Atléti in La Liga to date, Falcao has actually been pretty cold recently.
One possibility rumored in the past is a Torres-Falcao swap which would send the El Niño back to the Vicente Calderón, where he scored 82 goals from 2001 to 2007.
And the way things have gone for Torres since coming to West London, there’s no doubt he would certainly welcome a change of scenery right about now.
We’ll see how it all plays out in the next two months, but at this point in time, it certainly seems Chelsea needs Falcao right now more than Falcao needs Chelsea.
“People keep talking about Radamel Falcao from Atlético Madrid but Atlético Madrid are flying at the moment and they will want to keep of him as long as possible.” —ESPN commentator Steve McManaman on the likelihood of Radamel Falcao staying with his current club, despite the reported interest from Chelsea.
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Vitesse Arnhem striker Wilfried Bony seems like the perfect fit for Chelsea in the future, and the club is now reportedly looking at him.
Currently the leading scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie with 15 goals, the 23-year-old Ivorian would be a fabulous addition to the Blues attack.
But like Falcao, Bony’s team is in the middle of the league race, with Vitesse fighting FC Twente for the top spot and now only separated by one in goal differential—and quite possibly on its way to Champions League qualification.
The pros about signing Bony is that he’s currently playing with three Chelsea players on loan at Vitesse—Patrick van Aanholt, Gaël Kakuta and Tomas Kalas—and he could possibly fill the void left by fellow countryman Didier Drogba’s departure this past summer.
The big con here is that Bony will be playing for Ivory Coast for most of January in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, meaning the possibility of him coming to Stamford Bridge immediately and being a go-to guy in attack is slim.
But like Falcao, bringing him to the club sometime in the future seems like a very good idea.
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A recent Caught Offside report indicates Chelsea are thinking about making an approach for talented Bayern Munich forward Mario Gómez.
With Bayern’s Mario Mandžukić now doing an admirable job—a club-leading nine goals in Bundesliga play—filling in for Gómez who has an ankle injury, the 27 year old may have trouble winning his spot back and may become expendable.
With Gómez and Mandžukić just too much alike and unlikely to play together on Bayern’s attack, selling the former Stuttgart star to Chelsea may be a good idea.
And the Blues would be wise to make a run at Gómez, who finished as Bayern’s top scorer over the past two seasons with a gaudy total of 80 goals with 39 in 2010-11 and 41 in 2011-12.
One positive about getting Gómez would be the reality of bringing in an experienced and proven scorer who could immediately step into Torres’ spot in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Negatives would be the possibility that Gómez—who the Blues made offers to both in 2010 and 2011—could have trouble adjusting to play outside of his native Germany and the possible severity of his ankle injury.
The European champions are reportedly ready to make a €50 million (£40 million) offer to try to lure Bayern to sell Gómez, who, like Falcao and Bony, is on a team on or near the top of its league right now.
Gómez would be a nice addition at Stamford Bridge and would undoubtedly be more productive than Torres who some Chelsea fans would probably be willing to trade for two Rolling Stones tickets and a bag of potatoes right about now.
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Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente is also said to be a target of Chelsea, and at a towering 6' 5" and available at the relatively low price of of €7 million, he seems like a decent option.
But Llorente—nicknamed El Rey León—is a free agent at the end of this season and reportedly headed to Juventus and Serie A. And according to The Daily Mail, he will reportedly be snubbing Chelsea, as well as fellow English Premier League heavies Manchester City and Arsenal.
And with just one goal in nine La Liga games for 15th-place Bilbao so far this season, Llorente’s stats shouldn’t really inspire confidence for the Blues, who are desperately in need of someone who has proven they can put the ball in the back of the net fairly consistently.
For me, trying to replace one 28-year-old Spaniard named Fernando Torres with another 27-year-old Spaniard named Fernando Llorente Torres (his full name) for half a season just doesn’t make enough sense for a team that already seems to be grasping at straws with its recent hiring of manager Rafa Benítez.
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A slightly better option than Llorente is Bayer Leverkusen’s André Schürrle, who has been a target of the Blues before.
The 22-year-old German has three goals so far for Leverkusen this season, who currently sit in second place in Bundesliga, eight points behind Bayern and in contention for a Champions League spot in 2013-14.
According to The Daily Mirror, Abramovich reportedly sent his top scout to watch Schürrle play last week, and the club will probably have to offer him more than the £22 million rejected in the last transfer window.
The winger/forward may not necessarily be a true striker, but like Chelsea’s Victor Moses is incredibly versatile and can play a number of advanced attacking roles. Plus, he is young enough to be a Chelsea mainstay for seasons to come.
Now in the midst of a somewhat anemic season for him, Chelsea would be wise to really consider whether or not Schürrle is truly worth all the cash and effort.
Schürrle does lead Leverkusen with five assists in 15 games, but his three goals in league play is one less than Torres' four goals in the same number of EPL games, and bringing in someone that can really help in the scoring department is the point of all this.
But with Leverkusen playing well and in position for a Champions League spot and Chelsea struggling, who knows if Schürrle will be willing to leave a club that’s floating for one that presently looks more like a sinking ship.
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The out clause in Romelu Lukaku's contract means Chelsea could bring the 19-year-old Belgian back to West London from his loan to West Bromwich Albion, but as nice a start as he’s had for the Baggies—he’s tied for the team lead with Shane Long with five goals—it would somehow seem a bit cruel.
Lukaku is reportedly very happy with his role at The Hawthorns, according to manager Steve Clarke, and Chelsea may be best served in letting him continue to develop. He has said he doesn’t want to return to Stamford Bridge unless the club consistently plays him, something he complained about last season.
West Brom sits in fifth place right now and is tied with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur with 15 points, and although it’s totally out of their control, they would hate to lose this key cog in their offense.
It might seem like a good idea on the surface, but the Blues probably need someone with a bit more experience to fill the void left by Drogba’s departure and not being filled by Torres’ sporadic play so far this season.
“I think they’ll be going for someone with a little bit more quality, a little bit more experience. I think Lukaku’s done very, very well and I think he’ll be a better player for playing at West Brom and having a good season in the Barclays Premier League but I think Chelsea will be looking a little bit more higher than Lukaku to be very honest. I think Chelsea have better quality here already and I think Lukaku’s going to be a good player in the future.”—Steve McManaman, ESPN commentator
Nobody would instantly fit in better, satisfy the fans and fill the void left by Chelsea legend Drogba than Didier Drogba himself.
The Blues have recently considered bringing the 34-year-old back to Stamford Bridge on loan from Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, but whether or not Drogba would be able to immediately start and contribute would be the question.
Using Drogba as a substitute or part-time starter could be an option, but like Bony Drogba will be playing in the Africa Cup of Nations for Ivory Coast in January, and preseason training for his current club starts in February.
Drogba was thought as a possible pickup before Abramovich fired Roberto Di Matteo, but the Italian’s replacement, Benítez, and Drogba did have some friction while Benítez was managing at Liverpool.
Whether or not the two could mend fences should Drogba somehow return is another story, but it’s not difficult to say that almost all Chelsea fans now would much rather prefer to have Drogba come back and Benítez to leave.
Getting Drogba back is a real long shot, but probably one of the smartest things the Blues could do at this point in the club’s history.
What have they got to lose?
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Speculating on all the potential incoming striker rumors at Chelsea is like grabbing at bubbles in the air, and in the end what will end up happening may be a complete surprise and make all these suppositions a grand waste of time.
For example, if I told you a year ago that the Blues were contemplating letting legends Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard go, that Benítez would be the club’s interim manager and that management was contemplating bringing in Avram Grant in to help him, would you have believed me?
One player rumored to be on Chelsea’s radar is Liverpool teenager Raheem Sterling, but trying to plug a small 17-year-old in with a small and new advanced midfield doesn’t make sense, and The Daily Mirror reports league leader Manchester United is now looking at Sterling as a possible replacement for Nani, who himself could be a nice addition to Chelsea’s roster.
Because he is not a striker or forward, Everton’s Fellaini isn’t on this list, but there are probably few players who could help right now like the big Belgian. However, like Falcao, he is on a team fighting for a Champions League spot and may be hard to pry away from Goodison Park, although manager David Moyes warmed up to the idea in the press last month.
Signing Fellaini and two strikers and getting rid of some of the dead weight in January would likely go a long way to helping right Chelsea’s sinking ship this season, but who knows what’s really going on behind the scenes and how some of the players now feel about joining such a dysfunctional team, despite their storied reputation.
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