Chelsea are scouting the talented French midfielder Florian Thauvin, reports Ian Holyman of ESPN, with the Blues looking to add to the signing of Basel winger Mohamed Salah after the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United.
Thauvin, who joined Marseille last season in controversial circumstances—the player refused to train with Lille after he signed from Bastia according to Holyman—has been "universally hailed as the flagbearer of a glorious new era for French football," per the Guardian's Paul Doyle.
Chelsea sent French scout Guy Hillion to see Thauvin in action against Monaco on Sunday at the Stade Louis II.
However, they would be wise to take the advice of former legend Franck Leboeuf, who has criticised Thauvin for being too greedy in quotes given to RMC (h/t Holyman's article). The 1998 World Cup winner, who played just over 200 games for Chelsea before moving to Marseille in 2001, said:
Thauvin didn't exist for an hour. There was one moment where he had the ball and he tried to knock it past the defender and go round the other side, and you wonder where he's going. Wait for your teammates to arrive, keep the ball. Football isn't played with 11 balls.
Thauvin is tipped to be in the France squad for this year's World Cup in Brazil, and has been described by FIFA.com as one of the talents to watch out for this summer:
Marseille playmaker Florian Thauvin was one of the shining lights during the run to the title and kept his momentum going into the 2013/14 season. He has since appeared in all six of the south coast side’s UEFA Champions League games and has five goals to his name in Ligue 1.
The French Under-20 star scored three goals in six games for Les Bleus during their victory last summer in the U20 World Cup, per FIFA stats.
There was even reported interest from Arsenal, per John Cross in the Daily Mirror, with Arsene Wenger admiring the young French midfielder. “He is one of the great hopes of French football. He will go higher, he's only 20 years old,” said Wenger before Marseille played Arsenal in the Champions League in November.
However, signing Thauvin doesn’t make sense for Jose Mourinho’s men. Having just sold playmaker Juan Mata to Manchester United for £37 million, Chelsea moved quickly to sign Basel star Mohamed Salah, who has impressed this season, including two great individual performances against Chelsea in the Champions League.
Thauvin would be cautious of any move to Stamford Bridge. Mata, arguably Chelsea’s best player of the last two seasons, struggled to get a consistent place in Mourinho’s starting XI, so the chances of the young French starlet replacing one of three attacking midfielders look slim.
Throughout the season, Mourinho has relied on Eden Hazard and Brazilian star Oscar, rotating the third attacking midfield role between Willian, Mata and Andre Schurrle.
But it is Hazard who has shined most for Mourinho. The Belgian international has played in 22 Premier League games this season and has scored nine goals, per ESPN. Meanwhile Brazilian star Oscar has started 15 games in the league and scored six goals.
Oscar was in fine form on Sunday as he fired Chelsea into the next round of the FA Cup after scoring a beautiful free-kick against Stoke City.
According to Mourinho, Oscar is the player that he sees his Chelsea team being built around, per Yahoo Sports, a decision that saw Mata marginalised at the club, with his opportunities limited.
If Thauvin were to sign for Chelsea, he would face stiff competition for places. Mourinho is already clearly a fan of new Egyptian signing Salah:
He's young, he's fast, he's creative, he's enthusiastic. When we analysed him he looks the kind of humble personality on the pitch, ready to work for the team and to work and to adapt himself to a new life.
We think with him and Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian we will be fine. We lose an experienced top player like Juan Mata but we bring in a young player with great potential.
This season Mourinho has demanded more from his midfielders both in attack and defence as he looks to rebuild Chelsea into a title-winning team.
The club have said they will not sign any more players after the arrivals of Salah and Serbian international Nemanja Matic from Benfica, per the Guardian. Chelsea will, however, need to address their strikeforce, but signing playmaker Thauvin will not solve that problem.
Mourinho’s forwards have struggled for goals this season, with Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba all failing to nail down the striking berth. Chelsea failed twice this summer with two bids for Wayne Rooney, and a third looks unlikely, reports Jeremy Wilson in the Telegraph.
Instead, Mourinho will go after Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, per Wilson's article, the Brazilian having been monitored by Chelsea for several months.