Rumors are to Chelsea FC as peanut butter is to jelly.
Apparently they really need each other.
Remember the “Hulk to Chelsea” period last summer? Or how about the latest “Radamel Falcao to the Blues” rumors that ran rampant over the recent winter transfer window?
If you’re a Chelsea fan, you’re quite familiar with this modern trend where sports journalism and gossip unintentionally meet at the intersection of Speculation Street and Wishful Way.
Let’s examine some of the latest rumors going around Stamford Bridge and try to determine whether or not they are likely to end up becoming fact or fiction in the next six months.
Rumors are to Chelsea FC as peanut butter is to jelly.
If you would have read the above headline a year ago, you would have undoubtedly thought the 34-year-old Chelsea vice captain probably showed some critical signs of aging this year and that the club would be justified in letting Lamps head off quietly into the sunset like some old cowboy in a Western.
But that’s certainly not the case. The veteran midfielder and 2005 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year runner-up has been outstanding—despite missing a good chunk of the English Premier League season with a calf injury—and actually leads the Blues in scoring in the top flight with 11 goals (Demba Ba has 15 goals but scored all but two of them with Newcastle United).
In January, The Telegraph reported that club executives told Lampard’s agent Steve Kutner that they would not be offering his client a new contract this summer under any circumstances.
Then two weeks later, the Sportsmail said that Lampard had already cut deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer for around £4 million a year.
But respected Sports Illustrated writer and Fox Soccer Channel television correspondent Grant Wahl came out two weeks later and said that the proposed deal to send Lampard to the City of Angels was off.
Then, just days later, Sportsmail reported that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich decided to hold preliminary talks on a one-year deal to try to get Lampard, who currently makes £160,000 a week and has reportedly been approached by several clubs around the globe, to stay in West London.
So, even though he’s slowed a bit and is a little long in the tooth, Lampard will probably stay at Stamford Bridge for at least another year.
His leadership, ability to still score clutch goals, prowess from the penalty spot and importance to the club is just too valuable to the Blues and to quibble over a longer contract only makes the organization look petty at this point—especially considering the depths of Russian billionaire owner Abramovich’s oil-rich pockets.
Toss in massive pressure from Chelsea fans and Lampard’s teammates and you have an environment where the Blues would certainly suffer a PR nightmare should they dare let Lampard go now.
Lampard, who has now effectively adapted to his new position in the central midfield and his new role on the squad, also might not want to jeopardize his spot on the English national team or move his family out of England.
News on this matter probably won’t break until May or June, but don’t waste too much time worrying about Lampard’s departure as it makes absolutely no sense on many levels from Chelsea’s point of view.
And, if you were a zookeeper, would you let one of your prize lions go?
A constant source of gossip at Chelsea since coming over from Liverpool two years ago in a monster £50 million ($80 million) deal, Fernando Torres might as well become the mayor of Rumorville.
We all know about the scoring droughts—”El Niño” is currently in the midst of a 15-match streak—and the loss of pace since the knee surgeries but the 28-year-old has also devolved into a striker who has problems when the ball is in his possession and appears to be psychologically suffering from all this brutal reality, despite the Blues wins in the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.
So, it’s sort of been like Fear And Loathing At Stamford Bridge for Torres since leaving Anfield.
Last May, Chelsea planned to offer Atlético Madrid £15 million and Torres for Falcao according to Sportsmail but the deal never happened and the Blues ended up starting the new Premier League season with two disgruntled strikers in Torres and Daniel Sturridge and loaned out another, Romelu Lukaku, to West Bromwich Albion.
And with Abramovich telling the newspaper that his gamble on Torres was a failure, it seems the writing is finally on the wall and that the Spain international may be heading back to his homeland where he could quite possibly end up with his old club, Atlético.
A move back to La Liga would seemingly be the best thing for all parties involved. If Chelsea could offer the cash-strapped Los Rojiblancos a player like Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun, Torres and between £25-30 million, then maybe several problems could all be solved at once.
But if that should happen, a new, bigger question will arise: Who will be happier about Torres’ exit, Chelsea’s fans or Torres himself?
Almost a month ago, the football website Inside Spanish Football reported that Chelsea was preparing to offer €55 million (£46 million) and 20-year-old goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Atlético in an effort to try to land talented 27-year-old Colombian striker Radamel Falcao.
And although that rumor hasn’t totally been dispelled, Courtois himself isn’t buying as he recently made quite clear in the media.
"A lot of things the press say are nonsense," Courtois said in an interview with Reuters. “They are guessing. They know Chelsea want Radamel Falcao but Chelsea have also told me, 'The last thing we want to do is sell you'. Maybe they are lying to me but I don't think so."
Now deeming this rumor as either fact or fiction isn’t that easy but common sense dictates that the European champions wouldn’t dare part with a talent like Courtois who has been absolutely brilliant for second-place Atlético so far this season.
And besides parting with the perfect guy to take over the reins from Petr Čech when the 30-year-old Chelsea legend finally decides to hang his boots up, the club would also have to pony up €55 million to get Falcao in this proposed deal?
To me, only two players on the planet would even warrant consideration of a Courtois plus €55 million deal. I know you know I don’t have to tell you who those two players are.
At first blush, this rumor which cropped up about a month ago sounded like a very good and very logical idea for the Blues.
But then one thinks about how many teams in the history of the sport have successfully rotated goalkeepers and won silverware doing so and that thought quickly passes.
It’s pretty obvious for Chelsea that Ross Turnbull and Henrique Hilário are very average backups, would be liabilities starting against quality clubs and could hardly be seen as replacements for the Czech superstar.
But Belgian keeper Courtois seems to have put this all into perspective and said in a Sky Sports story that he expects to replace Čech in two years.
So any thoughts of bringing Courtois to West London over the summer, although enticing, are probably just rumors started by fans fearing the loss of such a great prospect.
My feel is Courtois will remain on loan at Atlético for at least another year until the time is right to respectfully let Čech retire on his own terms.
It seems the club would at least owe him that. But considering the way they are handling contract situations like Didier Drogba’s, Ashley Cole’s and Lampard’s, then it’s anyone’s guess on how the organization handles Čech’s retirement.
Hard To Tell (But Optimistically Leaning Fact)
Possibly the biggest rumor swirling around SW6 for the last nine months is that Radamel Falcao is headed for Chelsea.
After dissecting the Blues with a hat trick in the UEFA Super Cup in August, talk of getting Falcao to West London quickly cropped up and has continued relentlessly up until the present.
Thoughts of Falcao coming over in the winter transfer window dominated the press but, in the end, the asking price was too much and he ended staying with Atlético who is having a remarkable season in the competitive La Liga.
Fast forward to the rumors about the potential cash-Courtois or cash-Torres deals and you can see where Chelsea stands in all this—desperately wanting Falcao but not wanting to overpay or sacrifice a talented prospect like Courtois to get him.
But with Atlético struggling through financial problems, selling their golden boy would go a long way to solving many problems for Los Rojiblancos. But with global heavies Real Madrid and Anzhi Makhachkala (Russian Premier League), among others also in the picture, snagging “El Tigre” would be quite the coup for Chelsea.
One positive in all this from the Blues' point of view, as detailed by the website Sport Witness last week, is that Falcao’s agent Jorge Mendes is in contact with Abramovich and the West London club over a number of things right now, including Real Madrid manager José Mourinho whom Mendes also represents.
Should Torres leave after this season, Chelsea will no doubt be in the market for a big-name scorer and Falcao fits the bill perfectly. But whether or not the Blues can find a way to land him without breaking the bank and not being outbid by other suitors will ultimately be the $64,000 question here.
Or maybe more appropriately in this case, the £60-75 million question.
Who knew kicking a little ball in the back of a net could end up being so profitable?
A rumor that never seems to go away is that Napoli forward Edinson Cavani will eventually be coming to Stamford Bridge to ply his wares.
According to a report by ESPN, the 26-year-old Uruguayan international was again on Chelsea’s radar during the summer transfer window but the Azzurri’s hefty £40 million asking price for Cavani put a halt to any potential deal.
Cavani, presently the top scorer in Italy’s Serie A with 18 goals, eventually signed an extension to stay with Napoli at Stadio San Paolo. But the latest rumor to crop up in a Sportsmail report last week is that Real Madrid will now battle Premier League champions Manchester City for Cavani this summer.
And with a gaudy £52 million release clause in his contract, Cavani certainly won’t come cheap for the club which eventually signs him.
Spanish heavies Real Madrid are said to not only be interested in landing Cavani, but Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale and City’s David Silva as well in a potentially massive £100 million summer spending spree at Santiago Bernabéu.
Although the Blues have not totally been dismissed from a possible Cavani deal, it seems that ship has pretty much sailed and that his price tag is probably way too high for Chelsea.
This is another very close call and another question which won’t be answered until the summer, but assuming Torres does leave and guarding against the possibility of not being able to sign a bigger-named striker, bringing Romelu Lukaku back from his loan to West Bromwich Albion seems wise.
And with the possibility of injuries, having some depth at striker next season would serve Chelsea well. Look at what depth at the position has done for Manchester United this season.
At The Hawthorns this season, the 19-year-old Belgian has been nothing less than sensational. He's tied for sixth in the Premier League in scoring with 12 goals, a pretty impressive feat considering Lukaku hasn’t been a consistent starter for Baggies manager Steve Clarke.
At 6'3", Lukaku possesses some size often lacking in the Blues' sometimes smallish-appearing attack. But bringing him back to The Bridge could also set up the possibility for some problems should the club sign a big-name guy like Falcao, Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski or someone else.
Having three talented strikers is good on paper and from a distance but in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation, having Lukaku and Demba Ba and an even bigger name all fighting for playing time would certainly be an issue.
But with three players of that skill set, why not experiment with a 4-2-2-2 or a top-heavy 4-1-3-2 formation and let your dogs run brother?
Leaving Lukaku at West Brom for another year isn’t the worst scenario in the world for the Blues either, but his size and scoring would be a welcome addition.
Whatever happens on the Lukaku front in the end won’t be that surprising either way.
With Rafael Benítez coming out publicly and stating last week that he would be leaving at the end of this season, a number of names have cropped up in the media as possible replacements from here on out should management decides to fire him.
Avram Grant, Eddie Newton and even Captain Fantastic himself, John Terry, have all had their names thrown out as possible temporary fixes until a new manager can be hired in the summer.
The Standard reported that Chelsea were considering Grant while Roberto Di Matteo’s assistant Newton was rumored to be a candidate if the Blues lost to West Brom.
John Terry’s name also cropped up, as well as several others, but this one will probably be a non-issue with the club likely to just ride it out with the 52-year-old Spaniard for the next two months.
It seems the majority of fans want him back and that the oddsmakers at Sky Bet have him as a heavy (even money) favorite, so why not bring the Special One back?
Although still in the running for a Champions League crown, José Mourinho has had a fairly choppy season at Real Madrid and would probably love to tackle to job at Chelsea, a position he is quite familiar with after managing the Blues from 2004 to 2007.
Besides Mourinho at 1/1, Sky Bet has a number of familiar names on its “Next Chelsea Manager Odds” current (March 4) menu including David Moyes (6/1), Manuel Pellegrini (6/1), Michael Laudrup (7/1), Fabio Capello (8/1), Avram Grant (10/1) and Luciano Spalletti (14/1).
Terry is currently listed at 16/1 odds as is Roberto Martinez and Steve Clarke while Gianfranco Zola and Guus Hiddink are both at 20/1.
The 66-year-old Hiddink, currently managing Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia, has also recently been rumored as a possible long-term replacement, but that two little four-letter words—long-term—don’t really apply in the Abramovich Reign at Stamford Bridge.
Hiddink was appointed caretaker manager for Chelsea in 2009 when Abramovich sent Luiz Felipe Scolari packing but may have retirement on his mind at this point in his life.
One person mentioned in a previous slide and possibly a big factor in Chelsea’s future strangely enough is agent Jorge Mendes who represents both Mourinho and Falcao and who, according to Sport Witness, was in contact with Abramovich several times last week.
And Blues goalkeeper Petr Čech made it publicly known he would love to have the 50-year-old Mourinho back in West London.
There is still a lot of football to be played in March, April and May, but speculating on a new manager, especially one of Mourinho’s caliber, is only natural for Chelsea fans who have really been on the managerial roller-coaster with their team since this whole thing began.
At this point in time, Chelsea and Mourinho sort of seem like they were made for each other.
Besides these fairly obvious rumors, speculation and questions to be answered in the not-too-distant future by Chelsea, there are a number of other ones also to be contemplated.
Should Lampard end up leaving, finding another central midfielder will be crucial and Everton’s Marouane Fellaini, a rumored Blues target in January, would be the first choice of most Chelsea fans.
Another piece of business for management in the summer will be what to do with
the banished Florent Malouda who is currently biding his time with the under-21 squad and riding out the final year of his contract with the team.
Malouda will end up either being trade bait, take a reduced-value deal or end up being a free transfer in the summer.
Also, Daily Express reported that former Blues player and manager Roberto Di Matteo will be manager at FC Schalke 04 in Germany’s Bundesliga next season.
The possibility of Chelsea landing a Falcao or a Lewandowski or a Fellaini and getting Mourinho in the fold is definitely not a foregone conclusion but is bordering on the realm of being a distinct possibility.
In more simple words, it just could happen, Bubba. But you’re probably going to have to wait until July to find out.
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