Chelsea are reportedly ready to challenge Manchester United for the signing of Mehdi Benatia, while Marko Marin's ill-fated tenure with the Blues is all but over.
Jose Mourinho will deploy £30 million for the aforementioned Roma centre-back, according to Anthony Chapman of the Express. This report stems from an article in La Gazzetta dello Sport, as tweeted by football writer Kristof Terreur:
Benatia is a dominant defender, blessed with decent size, pace and power. He is an athletic type who averaged an impressive 2.1 tackles and 2.8 interceptions across 33 appearances for Roma last season, as reported by WhoScored.com. Notable for his goalscoring ability—the 27-year-old netted five times during the 2013-14 campaign—Benatia is also useful on the ball and often starts attacking moves from the back.
The Moroccan would add immediate centre-back depth at Chelsea. John Terry and Gary Cahill aren't likely to lose their places in the team any time soon, while Kurt Zouma is waiting to make his mark. Branislav Ivanovic can also play in the middle if needed, and he may be forced to do so as Tomas Kalas has completed his loan move to Cologne.
Benatia's speed could significantly aid Chelsea against fast-paced opposition. Terry is getting more and more susceptible to being caught out against younger legs and could be rotated with greater regularity during a busy schedule for the Blues. Benatia is better equipped to deal with pace and would certainly be an exciting future partner for Zouma.
That said, £30 million is expensive for an individual who would be used on a rotational basis. Mourinho has slowly weaned unneeded players and currently has at least 10 players out on loan, per Transfermarkt. Kalas could fill Benatia's role to a lesser ability if he remained at Stamford Bridge.
Marin is one such player who found himself scratching around for first-team action last season, when he went on loan with Sevilla. The German's career has really dropped off since he joined Chelsea, mainly due to a lack of quality performances leading to him being overlooked. He is now ready to join Fiorentina on a temporary basis, as reported by Ed Malyon of the Mirror.
The Serie A club posted an image of Marin's medical on their official Twitter account:
Marin's move will allow Juan Cuadrado to exit the Italian club, with Chelsea also reportedly interested in his services, per Chapman.
The Colombian's versatility—he can play on either wing, through the middle or as a full-back—makes him an attractive prospect for those looking to strengthen their squads. Like the potential race for Benatia, United are said to be Chelsea's main competitors for the player.
Miguel Delaney of The Independent highlighted that Mourinho, whether he adds to his squad or not, always delivers during the second season of his tenures:
The positive for Chelsea is that there is plenty of proof his second season at clubs is always his best. At FC Porto and Internazionale, it was then that he won those landmark Champions Leagues. At Real Madrid, he finally beat Pep Guardiola's Barcelona to the Spanish title, while breaking points and scoring records.
Chelsea appear in fantastic shape ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, with signings Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis adding world-class quality to a side that was already stacked with talent. The Blues strolled through last season and still finished third, so they can be expected to challenge all the way this time round.
Benatia can certainly aid the quest for silverware across four competitions. He isn't an essential purchase at this stage, but it would highlight Chelsea's claim to the throne as another smart investment from Mourinho, should the transfer go ahead.