Jose Mourinho has put Chelsea’s bid to capture Wayne Rooney on hold for the next week. As reported by BBC Sport, the Portuguese manager is rightly allowing Manchester United proper preparation for when the two clubs meet at Old Trafford on August 26.
The former Real Madrid boss has ensured the Blues do things correctly during the Rooney saga. And if United can’t be coaxed into agreeing a deal, it appears Mourinho has alternative options in his sights, as he told BBC Sport:
We have plans B and C. Don't ask me names. It's difficult to speak about players from other clubs.
We have the conditions to try to improve our team by bringing in one more player and we are going to try that till the end.
While this prompted belief that Robert Lewandowski could arrive in England, the Polish striker has quickly quashed any potential transfer by committing himself to Borussia Dortmund. As reported by David Raven of the Daily Mirror, an imminent pay-rise will see the 25-year-old see out his final contract at the Westfalenstadion.
With the Rooney deal on hold, it is time Chelsea fans begin considering alternatives to the Red Devils No. 10. Who could fit the bill at Stamford Bridge? Let’s take a look at three candidates Mourinho would be wise to consider.
Samuel Eto’o, Anzhi Makhachkala
Sometimes a useful signing arises at the right time. As reported by ESPN, Anzhi Makhachkala’s imminent cost-cutting process has deemed the Cameroonian surplus to requirements in Russia. Although he is also linked with a move to Manchester United—possibly as a replacement for Rooney—the 32-year-old striker has the potential to add incisiveness to Mourinho’s attack.
Eto’o is experienced at all levels of the game and has a good working relationship with the Chelsea boss. His pace, excellent first touch and finishing ability is proven across many countries, but it is his spell at Inter Milan that should interest the Chelsea support.
The lethal striker played some of his most confident football under Mourinho. He is a player who needs to be loved and repays any manager who gives him regular starts. His potential arrival would most likely see Demba Ba leave the club, but as the Senegalese striker continues to struggle for consistent form, this is no big loss.
If Mourinho is after a burly centre-forward, he should look no further than Rickie Lambert. Although Danny Griffiths of Metro reports West Ham United and Reading could be in for the Englishman after Southampton signed Pablo Osvaldo, the experienced forward would offer a cut-price alternative to Mourinho’s Rooney plans.
Lambert is a hardworking, powerful attacker who excels when leading the line by himself. Mourinho’s previous era at Chelsea was defined by a similar style of player, Didier Drogba, and there’s no need to break the bank for Rooney when the club already possesses Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Ba.
Lambert wouldn’t expect to start every game at Stamford Bridge and would remain dedicated to the squad's cause. His willingness to bring wingers such as Eden Hazard and Juan Mata into play would see an increased discipline ushered in across the side.
The Belgian is expected to harness his power for the Blues across the next season, but the arrival of a player in Lambert’s style could help alleviate increasing pressure from the starlet's shoulders, whilst allowing him to grow in the process.
Karim Benzema, Real Madrid
The summer transfer window has been a struggle for Arsenal, so why not keep it going? As reported by Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph, the Gunners are set to launch a momentous £40 million bid to bring Karim Benzema to the Emirates.
Mourinho is currently looking for a physical forward. Should Carlo Ancelotti be willing to entertain offers for Benzema, the French international highlights the same qualities as Rooney and has a successful previous relationship with the returning manager.
Benzema was often used in a lone role by Mourinho at Real Madrid. The former Porto boss could mimic his Spanish style with Hazard and Mata supporting the 25-year-old in attack, just as Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria did for his Bernabeu team.
Most importantly, Benzema represents greater value for money if £40 million is to be dropped on a forward. He is two years younger than Rooney, less argumentative on the pitch and continues to keep his stocky frame in peak condition. If Rooney has one major weakness, it’s his affinity for losing shape after a minor injury or knock.
Benzema is a brilliant all-round alternative to the Manchester United star. His previous experience alongside Mourinho, combined with his raw power, pace and finishing ability, offers a combination of what Eto’o and Lambert could bring to the club. Although he is likely to cost top dollar, the former Lyon forward ticks all of the boxes, without the risk.