Few clubs generate as much interest and intrigue come the transfer window as Chelsea. Even before owner Roman Abramovich’s takeover and subsequent era of decadence, the West London club was often primed to unveil a glossy European talent or exciting international.
The return of Jose Mourinho has added an extra dimension to the Blues’ summer. Even though the Portuguese manager has close relations with a number of key members of the squad, he hasn’t been slow to acknowledge that change is necessary and that the club intends to recruit this summer.
It will certainly feel like “business as usual” at Stamford Bridge.
Thus far, the Pensioners haven’t been as ostentatious as is their wont. The deal for Andre Schurrle was completed before Mourinho arrived, although it remains to be seen how much of a role he will have this term—despite his considerable transfer fee.
Marco van Ginkel is an exciting prospect; he will be an energetic and dynamic presence in the midfield. Already a Dutch international, van Ginkel will surely take time to adapt to the Premier League following his tutelage in Holland. At only 20, it may be that his key contributions will not be seen until the future.
It is perhaps no surprise that many other central midfielders have been linked with a move to the club. Rumours of a West London exit have surrounded John Obi Mikel (see Simon Jones' Daily Mail report connecting him to Monaco here) and David Luiz almost relentlessly, the latter per the Mirror's John Cross, since the summer began. Mourinho has failed to truly end the speculation that Juan Mata may not be his choice to carry the attacking responsibility for the team.
Michael Essien—a Mourinho favourite—will hope to be rejuvenated back in the Premier League, but doubts remain as to his long-term fitness. Frank Lampard looked to be heading for the exit for the majority of last season, and even though he will now remain at the club for the coming campaign, his preseason has been disrupted through injury.
Ramires remains, and Kevin De Bruyne and Josh McEachran will look to stake a claim for a first-team spot, but Oriol Romeu has been sent away to Valencia on loan.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that Sami Khedira has been linked to the club. The Mirror were just one outlet to reveal Mourinho’s intention to return to his former club, Real Madrid, to snare the German international.
Only six players played more league minutes than Khedira last season, and even though the midfielder remains an important part of the side in the Spanish capital, Mourinho’s cult of personality may be enough to persuade him that now might be the time to taste the Premier League.
The dynamic workhorse offers determination and presence as well as a not inconsiderable skill. He would be a major asset to Chelsea, and the kind of midfield general around whom Mourinho could begin to build the post-Lampard era.
With Asier Illarramendi, Isco and Casemiro arriving at Madrid to bolster the central midfield, complementing those already present, Los Blancos may be receptive to an enticing offer for their powerhouse.
My colleague, Rob Goldberg, has advocated Khedira as an option for Chelsea ahead of Bayern Munich midfielder Luiz Gustavo. While he may be right that the German is a more accomplished talent, the sheer volume of reports, per the Metro's Hannah Duncan, linking the Brazilian to Chelsea appears to indicate that he is the more likely acquisition.
Per the Vanguard, rumours have indicated that Mourinho has made the signing of a holding midfielder a priority and, unconvinced by John Obi Mikel in a role ahead of the defence, has turned his attentions to Gustavo, an expert in the position.
Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola’s high-profile move to bring Thiago Alcantara to Bavaria has been treated as a major indication of the Spaniard’s intentions for the Bayern midfield. Even competing against the likes of Javi Martinez, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger last term, Gustavo found himself on the peripheries of the team, and he will surely struggle for playing time now that Thiago has been added to the mix.
Gustavo could well be a terrific signing for Chelsea. The Brazilian is another who loves to dominate contests in the midfield and who adores the prospect of a battle in the heart of the park. Realising that competition for spots in the national side will be intense ahead of a World Cup next summer, Gustavo alongside Ramires in midfield could be a hugely motivated, incredibly determined combination for Mourinho.
He is certainly more mobile than Mikel!
The key rumour that refuses to disappear, however, is the one that links Wayne Rooney to Chelsea, per the Metro. It is a move that would change the complexion of the Premier League, let alone the Blues’ first team.
Having extolled the Scouser’s virtues as a striker, Rooney would surely command a berth at the top of the team should he arrive. Mourinho clearly sees Rooney as a player he could rejuvenate, another with terrific ability around whom he could build his next great side.
The "push factors" from Manchester United have been outlined frequently over the last few months, but the prospect of being beloved once again, demanding the attention and adoration of an elite manager and an expectant fanbase, could well make Chelsea an incredibly appealing option for Rooney.
Despite being earmarked as the side’s next iconic striker, would the tactically astute and innovatively imaginative Mourinho be able to avoid using some of Rooney’s qualities to bolster the team’s weaknesses deeper down the pitch?
With the likes of Oscar, Edan Hazard and the aforementioned Mata, Chelsea are not short of creativity or breathtaking flair; the prospect of Rooney ahead of that trio is tantalising, but the long-term suggestions of the player adopting a deeper role won’t go away simply with a move of clubs.
He may stride into West London as the club’s go-to striker (possibly even taking Juan Mata’s No. 10 shirt should the Spaniard go in the other direction), but it may not be long before Rooney is seeing more of the play from a deeper starting position.
Mourinho’s expert employment of Samuel Eto’o during Internazionale’s magnificent run to the European title demonstrates both the manager’s willingness to make the most of a player’s key qualities to the benefit of the majority and also his talent for appeasing even the most turbulent of egos.
Don’t be surprised to see one or two more of those arrive at Stamford Bridge before the summer is out.
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