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Spotting a Good Value, Under-the-Radar Signing for Chelsea

Manchester United's Javier Chicharito Hernandez gives a thumb up before the team's friendly soccer match against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo)
Uncredited/Associated Press
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2014

Romelu Lukaku departed Chelsea this week, joining Everton for £28 million.

The Belgian’s transfer, as reported by BBC Sport, is an example of the continued shrewd business policy adopted by Chelsea in recent months that has seen Jose Mourinho trim his squad, bringing in considerable funds in the process.

In January, the sale of Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne recouped around £55 million, and this summer David Luiz, Lukaku and Demba Ba have all departed for a combined £83 million.

It means, despite the money spent on Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis since the end of 2013/14, Mourinho has money available to strengthen should he feel the need.

Given their strength in depth across the squad, it’s difficult to see where the Blues need any new faces, however.

Pre-season has shown us how much Mourinho’s rebuilding at Stamford Bridge has progressed. He often lamented the imbalance of his squad last term, but now Chelsea have a steely look about them.

Well stocked in defence and midfield, their only weakness is arguably with the strikers.

Costa will start the season as first choice. His £32 million price tag and form over the past couple of years determines that much.

ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 30:  Diego Costa of Chelsea gets past Zakaria Labyad of Vitesse during the pre season friendly match between Vitesse Arnhem and Chelsea at the Gelredome Stadium on July 30, 2014 in Arnhem, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropo
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Outside of the Spaniard, Chelsea aren’t as strong as Mourinho would perhaps like, though.

Didier Drogba has returned, but at 36 years old, question marks remain over his ability to perform consistently over the course of a grueling campaign.

Fernando Torres, as talented as he is, continues to be a source of frustration, with Mourinho and Chelsea fans desperate for him to find the devastating form that convinced Roman Abramovich to pay Liverpool £50 million for his services in 2011.

Patrick Bamford may well be a prospect, yet with no Premier League experience, it would be unrealistic to expect the 20-year-old to play a big role over the next 12 months.

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA - JULY 27: Didier Drogba (R) and Fernando Torres (C) of Chelsea looks on prior the Pre Season Friendly  match between FC Olimpija Ljubljana and Chelsea at Stozice stadium in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Photo by Srdja
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Now that Lukaku has gone, Chelsea’s answer to bolstering their forward options could be a short trip along the M62 from the Belgian's new home to where Javier Hernandez plies his trade for Manchester Untied.

The Red Devils are going through a major transition themselves since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

In the space of 12 months they have employed two managers—more than their total for the past 26 years—and their ever-changing squad has left it unclear where some players fit in.

Hernandez is one of those whose future is uncertain.

Will Louis van Gaal integrate him alongside Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney? Will Danny Welbeck remain ahead of him in the pecking order? Does the new manager even rate him highly enough to retain his services?

Brennan Linsley/Associated Press

They’re all questions that will be answered in the coming weeks, although it would be to Chelsea’s benefit to force United’s hand now as the new season approaches.

Hernandez is a player the Blues know well. His scoring record against them is impressive enough, after all.

He endured a frustrating time under David Moyes last season and is now at a stage of his career where he needs to establish himself—to avoid becoming one the many players who peaked in the early years of their career before fading.

Hernandez joined United shortly before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and, on the back of that tournament, his reputation was significantly enhanced.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

His debut season in the Premier League was promising, too, his electric pace catching out defences—including Chelsea’s—to help United on their way to yet another league title.

His Old Trafford career has stagnated somewhat since and with his attributes, Hernandez now seems more suitable to Chelsea’s counter-attacking style than he does United’s system under Van Gaal.

Mourinho’s Chelsea look to hit teams on the break, turning over possession quickly before using the pace of their attackers to punish teams.

It was a system being refined last year and, on the evidence of pre-season, is one that has improved considerably—especially with Costa leading the line.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Hernandez would suit a 4-3-3, playing on either side of the striker. His pace would certainly be a threat, not to mention his knack for ghosting into danger areas to score goals. Again, that threat is something Chelsea themselves have fallen victim to plenty of times in the past.

In Mourinho’s preferred 4-2-3-1 from last season, Hernandez would still have a role as an impact player, even starting games as the lone striker when the brute force of Costa may not always be the best option.

We can only speculate on the player’s personal preference, but as a business decision, a transfer would make sense for the Untied board.

The club hasn’t shied away from giving Van Gaal funds this summer, although there will come a time when the manager will need to balance the books by offloading some of his fringe players to better invest elsewhere.

There has already been talk of Hernandez being a target for Atletico Madrid, per the Press Association, via The Guardian, despite club president Enrique Cerezo since denying any interest on Radio Marca, via The Mirror.

The Mexican is a man who could be in demand soon and offers Chelsea something different than what they have already.

A move for him now would strengthen an already formidable-looking squad at Stamford Bridge.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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