In and Out: Transfers Chelsea Should Make Before the EPL Start
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So far, the protracted transfer of Andre Schurrle is the only bit of business Chelsea have completed since the end of last season, but the Blues fans can sleep easy knowing that the German winger won't be the last new recruit to join Jose Mourinho's second revolution.
In truth, the Blues can add Michael Essien, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku to the list of signings as they played no part in last season's Premier League top four and Europa League double.
If you care to class the Ghanaian and two talented Belgian's as new arrivals, then Chelsea's haul of Schurrle, Essien, De Bruyne and Lukaku undoubtedly already strengthens a very strong hand—and it won't stop there.
A new striker will surely be sought in the coming weeks and, in my opinion, Mourinho needs a physical presence to shore up his midfield.
However, even with Hilario, Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, Florent Malouda and Yossi Benayoun being released from the wage bill, there's still plenty of dead wood hanging around in the squad who could be cashed in upon with that resource going to good use.
So without going all Joe Kinnear on you, here's the transfer deals I'd commission in and out of the club if I were Chelsea's Director of Football.
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In: Julio Cesar
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If you read my piece on "Chelsea's 2013/14 Loan Rangers" then you will already be aware that I am a big advocate of bringing Thibaut Courtois back into the fold to provide stiff competition for Petr Cech.
However, it already looks as though the Belgian stopper will be spending a third season on loan at Atletico Madrid, and with Ross Turnbull and Hilario having left the club this summer, it's absolutely imperative that Jose Mourinho acquires a top-class goalkeeper to fill the void.
With Courtois certainly set to return for the 2014/15 season, it seems foolish to spend any great amount of money on the new custodian given that the Blues already have one of the continents best young keepers on their books.
Therefore, the obvious move for me would be for Mourinho to nip in and sign his former Inter Milan No. 1 Julio Cesar.
Current club Queens Park Rangers are keen to shed the Brazilian off the payload, meaning he will be available for a nominal fee or even a free transfer.
The 33-year-old proved his worth in the Premier League last year in a futile QPR cause, so tying the a Selecao international down to a one-year deal would allow him to move on without much fuss in twelve months time when Courtois comes in.
An absolute no-brainer for me. Get it done.
Out: John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel
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John Obi Mikel divides opinion of the Chelsea support with half viewing him as a slow, plodding anchor whilst the other half see him as an underrated and underappreciated cog in the wheel.
Personally, I veer towards the latter and feel the Nigerian has performed an important function in securing two European titles over the past twelve months, but that does not stop me pushing him out of the exit door.
Mikel provides a solid base to the side, rarely venturing forward, distributing the ball efficiently and turning over plenty of possession in the middle of the park, but with Galatasaray rumoured to be interested in signing the 26-year-old, I feel now is the right moment for club and player to go their separate ways.
Obi Mikel has never set the world alight at Chelsea, and each season you expect him to raise his game and bring more to the table.
Yet, the fact that he has never reached the potential expected of him and has never made himself indispensable suggests the former Lyn Oslo man has peaked, with his current peak being good, but not great.
Quite simply, I think Chelsea could and should do better in this position, and with Gala thought to be offering a tidy £13 million for his services, I'd cash in and put the money to improving on Mikel.
In: Geoffrey Kondogbia
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Talk of Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel joining the Blues continues to do the rounds, and with Michael Essien and Kevin De Bruyne returning to the club, Jose Mourinho has plenty of options in the middle of the park.
But with John Obi Mikel set to depart, the Special One still needs that Claude Makelele figure to offer protection to his back four, and in my opinion Sevilla's young French colossus Geoffrey Kondogbia is the man to do the job.
The 20-year-old excelled during his debut season in La Liga following a switch from Lens last summer, and the 6'4" powerhouse has all of the attributes to become that dominant force Chelsea have long sought in Obi Mikel.
Kondogbia is another of those tall, muscular Frenchman burdened with the moniker of the "new Patrick Viera," but from what I've seen, this kid is far from another pretender.
Quick, slick and equally adept at ending and starting attacks, Kondogbia has all of the raw materials to become a success in the heart of the Chelsea midfield in the short and long term future.
According to reports, Mourinho identified Kondogbia as a potential replacement for Xabi Alonso at Real Madrid, and the Independent suggest the Portuguese coach is now prepared to bring Kondogbia to Stamford Bridge in a £10 million move.
That price would be an absolute steal for a player who could become a mainstay of Mourinho's midfield for many years to come.
Out: Marko Marin
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It's unfortunate that Marko Marin's legacy at Chelsea is that he'll become a pretty good quiz question in a few years.
You can imagine it now:
Q) Name the player once labelled the "German Messi" who signed for Chelsea, never played and then disappeared again?
Acquiring the winger in a cut-price deal from Werder Bremen could have been one of the coups of the season if things had gone the right way—but they most certainly didn't.
Marin was arguably the Blues standout player on their pre-season tour of the US, outshining Eden Hazard and looking a lively proposition flickering around the flanks.
But injuries and a baffling lack of game time given by Rafa Benitez meant the 24-year-old could never find any sort of fitness, form and fluency to replicate his days as one of Bundesliga's hottest properties.
There is a school of thought that with a decent summer behind him and a few friendlies under his belt, Marin could show a little more of his abilities than he did last year, but with compatriot Andre Schurrle newly arrived to complement a raft of others in his position, there seems little chance of Marin being anything other than a bit player next term.
Chelsea may as well cash in and save on wages by selling rather than loaning the German international, and if a swift end is brought to his Blues career, then both can go their own way on amicable terms.
In: Robert Lewandowski
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Instead, it appears as though Jose Mourinho has set his sights on Napoli hitman Edinson Cavani, with reports circling that the Blues are in advanced talks with his current club over a £50 million switch.
But whilst the Uruguayan is arguably likely to get you more goals, I feel Lewandowski will contribute more leading the line and would be a better all-round fit in the current set up.
In my article "What sort of Striker would best suit Chelsea?" I argued that the Blues need somebody who gives as much as he receives, and that an out-and-out poacher can offer very little when the goals don't come.
Traditionally, Chelsea have relied heavily upon goals from midfield, and part of the reason for that is a spearhead such as Didier Drogba running the front on his own. As well as scoring his fair share, the Ivorian brought others into play and allowed the side to operate with one up top.
For all of his penalty box prowess, Cavani is a player who only comes alive in the danger zones, and for me this would have a detrimental effect with the buzzing attacking midfield trio needing somebody to bounce balls off.
Lewandowski is the full package, and I believe he would be a better all-round option than Cavani.
The 24-year-old is two years the junior of Cavani and although Dortmund insist he will stay, could they turn down an inflated offer of say £30 million, when he could walk away for nothing next year?
Out: Demba Ba
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With Romelu Lukaku looking like being part of the squad for next season and Jose Mourinho keen on adding a marquee striker, Chelsea will have two out-and-out frontmen vying for the one position with Andre Schurrle giving options for a third.
All of that means that one of or both of Demba Ba and Fernando Torres will be surplus to requirements, and first to go should be the former Newcastle man.
The Senegalese international did a job considering he was signed for only £7 million, but across a six month stay at Stamford Bridge, he never gave off the impression he was anything other than a short-term solution.
After starting well with three goals in his first three starts, Ba went off the boil under constant rotation from Rafa Benitez and struggled to impose himself into the lineup.
To me, the 28-year-old appears to be a very good striker for a fair-to-middling side rather than a top-class forward in a top team.
Question marks over his knees seem unfounded and with three years of Premier League football behind him, Ba will have no shortage of potential suitors and can leave with his head held high knowing he played his part.
It'll be best for all concerned if Chelsea can recoup what they paid and Ba goes elsewhere to get games and goals.
Out: Fernando Torres
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I should imagine few will disagree with my decision to cast Demba Ba adrift, yet I suspect what to do with Fernando Torres will command more scrutiny.
In my eyes, a Robert Lewandowski/Edinson Cavani-type figure should be Chelsea's No. 1 striker, with Romelu Lukaku being second choice and Andre Schurrle providing a third spoke, if necessary.
If that is the case, then what to do with British football's most expensive player?
On the evidence of the past two-and-a-half years, Torres is not good enough—and won't be good enough—to be entrusted as Chelsea's main man, and although he has demonstrated an ability to score in Europe and cup competitions, I would prefer to pass that baton to Lukaku.
If keeping Torres impedes on Lukaku's development, then there is only one solution, and that would be to sell the Spaniard.
His commitment and endeavour can never be questioned, but El Nino simply does not cause the sort of storms he used to do, and on ever-ageing legs and without regular games, he's only likely to fall deeper into a recession.
Personally, I feel that Lukaku plus one other—flanked by Schurrle—will be enough over the course of the season, so why encounter more heavy expenditure on Torres's wages when he won't be contributing much?
If Chelsea can recoup £10-15 million for the 29-year-old and get his rumoured £175,000-per-week wages off the books, then I'd sell up.
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The long and short of all that then is that I am proposing signing Julio Cesar (free), Geoffrey Kondogbia (£10-15m) and Robert Lewandowski (£30m), and offsetting those purchases and recouping cash by selling John Obi Mikel (£13m), Marko Marin (£3m), Demba Ba (£7m) and Fernando Torres (£10-15m).
Given that Andre Schurrle has already signed for approximately £18 million, if—and it's a big if—the rest of this master plan comes off, Chelsea's net spend for the summer would be somewhere in between £20-30 million.
So, for a top-end figure of £30 million, the side which finished third in last season's Premier League and won the Europa League would be strengthened to the tune of Cesar, Essien, Kondogbia, De Bruyne, Schurrle, Lukaku and Lewandowski.
If you break each move down by position, then the Blues squad would undoubtedly be better and deeper in each slot.
Hilario and Turnbull for Julio Cesar makes sense, Lukaku and Lewandowski are better than Ba and Torres, Schurrle's an improvement on Marin and Kondogbia will be a greater asset than Mikel. The midfield pool will also have versatility and variety with Essien and De Bruyne being brought in, and when you add what's already there to this mix, there are very few squads with as much quality and quantity anywhere in Europe.
Here's a 22-man squad, including Jamal Blackman as third choice keeper, and this set up would allow all of Wallace, Tomas Kalas, Kenneth Omeruo, Nathaniel Chalobah, Oriol Romeu, Josh McEachran, Nathan Ake, Lucas Piazon and Islam Feruz to leave on loan and gain some much needed first team experience.
Here we go:
GK: Cech, Julio Cesar, Blackman
DEF: Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Luiz, Cole, Bertrand
MID: Essien, Ramires, Lampard, Kondogbia, De Bruyne, Oscar, Mata, Moses, Hazard
ATT: Lewandowski, Lukaku, Schurrle
Now, initially it may look a little top heavy, but discard Blackman and you're down to 21, and when you consider that at any one point over the course of a season, there are at least two or three absentees through injury and suspension, this squad would mean Chelsea could always put out a truly world class 11 with seven subs for a matchday 18.
And all for £30 million.
Get me Mr Abramovich's number.
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