After finishing the Premier League campaign with the most impressive defensive record of any team, Chelsea’s back-four could be set to become even stronger next season, after the club were given a major boost in their efforts to sign FC Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala.
The 23-year-old centre-half has confessed that in a straight choice between Jose Mourinho’s side and Premier League champions Manchester City—who tried to bring the player to the Etihad in January—he’d pick the Londoners every time, per beIN Sports (h/t Mark Ogden of The Telegraph):
City or Chelsea? Chelsea because it is London.
It is true that I love the Premier League because it is a spectacular championship. In January, there were discussions with City, but it fell through because the two clubs could not reach an agreement. Every player wants to play in the biggest clubs.
I am an ambitious player and the team that can help me win titles is the one that interests me.
The news will certainly come as a blow to the Citizens, who as Mangala states, were very interested in acquiring his services in the January window. But from the perspective of those who don a darker shade of blue, the prospect of the French international bolstering an almost impenetrable defence is extremely exciting.
Mangala is a player that’d suit Mourinho’s mantras down to the ground. For FC Porto, the Frenchman has been an extremely forceful defensive presence and, whilst he is adept with the ball at his feet, he has a maturity in his game that prevents him from taking unnecessary risks.
Here are a few examples of why he is such a coveted talent:
Mangala is certainly a more natural fit for the Portuguese boss than a defender in the mould of David Luiz, who Chelsea are reportedly looking to move on this summer, per Martin Lipton of The Mirror.
The Brazilian international has been on the fringes of the first XI under the tutelage of Mourinho and, whilst his enthralling style means he remains a popular figure with the Stamford Bridge faithful, you suspect the Blues would sell him for a reported fee of £30 million.
A significant portion of that transfer fee could go towards the capture of Mangala, who has a reported £35 million asking price. A sizeable investment and a price that even big spenders Real Madrid baulked at according to El Confidencial:
But it'd be an outlay that would ensure Chelsea's defence is in good hands for many years to come.
Positionally, the Frenchman could be a long-term successor to John Terry. Whilst the Chelsea skipper has just signed a new one-year deal at the club, per BBC Sport, at 33 years old his best days are behind him. Mangala—who is left-footed—would slot seamlessly into the void left by the Chelsea captain, who occupies the left of the two centre-back berths.
Whilst it may seem misguided for Chelsea to stock up on defensive options, especially with Kurt Zouma set to join from Saint Etienne this summer too, per BBC Sport, Mangala is in the very top bracket of centre-half.
Eventually replacing Terry is going to be a hugely difficult task for Mourinho, and if he’s after longevity in the centre of defence that can come close to replicating the influence of his current captain, Mangala is the best option out there.