Despite their standing near the top of the English Premier League all season, Chelsea have often failed to play their best football. The Blues' strikers have come under particular scrutiny, as the trio of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba have failed to provide consistent scoring.
So when the January transfer window opened, it was no surprise to see rumors that Chelsea were trying to goose their forward corps. The Blues were connected to Napoli forward Gonzalo Higuain and purportedly preparing to make a £50 offer for the Argentinian forward:
'Chelsea determined to land Higuain', reports the Daily Telegraph. Follow the latest transfer news via our LIVE blog: http://t.co/YBVEkrHAPT— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 3, 2014
However, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho quickly dispelled the notion, asserting that Higuain is a player the Blues cannot get, per FoxSports.com:
But Mourinho says there was no such bid and said: "Nothing is true. He is a player that I know we cannot get.
"Napoli is a club which normally doesn't sell. In the last years, they sold one player a year, when they felt it was not possible to keep them.
"They want to win the Scudetto, they want to win the Europa League. I don't believe they're interested in selling Higuain.
"Why should we be interested in someone we believe it is impossible to get?"
As if to reaffirm his initial stance, Mourinho then went out and stated that the Blues were not chasing any forwards at all during the transfer window. Despite the struggles of his current three forwards, the Chelsea boss says he likes the squad as currently composed, according to Jonathan Liew of The Telegraph:
Chelsea will not sign a new striker in the January transfer window, according to their manager Jose Mourinho.
"A striker, 100 per cent no," Mourinho replied on Friday when asked if Chelsea would be active in the transfer market this month. "It is not a priority, it is not an option. We have three. The market is open, but for us, it is almost closed."
"We are happy with the squad we have," he said. "This squad is good enough for my first season. If we can improve the squad to prepare the next season, we will do that. But we know where we are, we know what we need for the future."
Of course, Twitter is still abuzz over the Higuain rumors, and there are whispers that Chelsea are not yet finished with their pursuit:
Chelsea plan second bid for Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuaín after having £50 million offer rejected http://t.co/rNSAcoLcMP— Chelsea News (@chelseanewsonly) January 3, 2014
In spite of the lack of forward production, Chelsea still rank fourth in the Premier League with 38 goals. The midfielders have done a marvelous job compensating for the lack of production up front, lessening the need for pure scoring production. Indeed, the Blues' money might be better spent on one of their own.
Midfielder Juan Mata has been unhappy for some time now, and that anger manifested itself when Mourinho subbed out Mata in the 53rd minute of Chelsea's New Year's Day win over Southampton. Now, it appears a cavalcade of teams are after the Spaniard, led by Paris St. Germain. For his part, Mourinho is diffusing the notion that Mata is on his way out, according to Sam Cunningham and Rik Sharma of the Daily Mail:
Asked if Mata had taken him up on his invitation of a chat about a move away, Mourinho said no, and that Mata had trained exceptionally well.
'Today he trained in a fantastic way,' explained Mourinho. 'He focused more on what I told him after the game at Southampton, when i told him I don't want him to leave. And that my door is always open.
'He focused on me not wanting him to leave and not wanting the club to sell him. He moved on. No problems.'
Manchester United have been put on red alert regarding Juan Mata's future despite José Mourinho saying he wants him to stay. (Source: MEN)— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) January 3, 2014
However, Mourinho has rebuffed Chelsea's Premier League competitors, insisting that he will not sell Mata to a competitor:
Jose Mourinho: "I would rather sell Juan Mata to Wolves for 50p than Man Utd for 100m."— Sky Sports News (@SkySportNews_) January 3, 2014
Although Mata has received only 11 league starts since returning to Stamford Bridge, the Blues would be better served keeping their disgruntled midfielder. The 25-year-old has twice been voted the team MVP, and he proved his value in the pre-Mourinho era.
Mata is capable of being one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, and he is worth the risk of distraction for the reward of rediscovering his game. His relationship with the manager is undeniably shaky, but there is still nearly half of the league season to repair it. If Chelsea's fallen star rediscovers his form for the stretch run, that could be the difference between the Blues earning a top-four Champions League berth and finishing on the outside for the second time in three seasons.