Chelsea FC: 4 Reasons Why Signing Raul Meireles Made Perfect Sense
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It happened in the dying moments of the summer transfer window.
Portuguese international Raul Meireles put in a transfer request less than 30 minutes before 11pm GMT, and Chelsea were ready to pounce. They completed a shock £12 million swoop for the 28-year-old from Liverpool just in time, signing him on a four-year deal.
He was the last of Chelsea's signings in a busy summer, where the club brought in six new players. The Blues missed out on the man at the pinnacle of Andre Villas-Boas' wishlist, Luka Modric, but, all in all, did fairly well in the transfer market.
I think the acquisition of Meireles, who was named PFA Fans Player of the Year 2010-2011, is shrewd piece of business.
Here are the reasons why I believe Raul Meireles is a great signing for the West London side, and will have a big impact on their season.
He Adds Creativity to the Midfield, Without Neglecting Defensive Duties
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By the end of last season it was clear to all that the Blues were crying out for a creative spark in midfield. Andre Villas-Boas acknowledged this fact, and brought in Juan Mata. However, one player by himself is not the answer.
Meireles is an intelligent player, who is comfortable on the ball, and is capable of dictating play from the centre of the pitch.
He plays as a box-to-box midfielder, and does his defensive duties diligently.
His ability to feed the strikers with quality through balls and accurate passes makes him the sort of midfielder Chelsea were missing through 2010-11.
He Has a Shoot-on-Sight Approach Like Frank Lampard
Meireles is a player who is not afraid to pull the trigger, and is usually on target with his shooting. In this regard he is similar to Frank Lampard.
While he doesn't score anywhere near as many as Super Frank, Meireles does manage some stunning goals from distance, like this one against Wolves.
Whether things are going your way or not, it is important to test the keeper, and Raul does that frequently.
He regularly took corners for Liverpool, and is good at set-pieces.
At £12million, He's a Better Buy Than the Overpriced Modric
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Chelsea's pursuit of Modric lasted throughout the two-month duration of the summer transfer window. Spurs were not willing to part company with the man who is perhaps their most important player, and held onto him in the end.
Now, while I consider Modric to be world-class, I do feel he is being overrated to some extent. He wasn't just going to wave a magic wand and make last season's midfield woes disappear. The Croat doesn't have particularly impressive statistics, and critics have bluntly pointed out that he didn't have a direct role to play in most of Spurs' goals in his three seasons at the club.
Most will agree that Meireles at £12 million is a smarter acquisition than Modric at £30-40million.
Meireles is just as versatile, and can play anywhere in midfield. His stats make for better reading too (stats don't tell the whole story, but they do matter).
He Is at His Peak Right Now, and Has Plenty of Seasons Left at the Top
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A footballer is generally at the peak of his powers at 28. Meireles is no different. He was in blistering form under Kenny Dalglish in the second half of last season.
I expect him to scale new heights in his first season in the capital. He took his time to adjust to the pace of English football, but is now ready to take his game to the next level, with Andre Villas-Boas to guide him.
In the presence of Chelsea's Portuguese-speaking contingent, he should not take much time to settle in. The fans will hope he can hit the ground running, and go on to give three or four years of top service in a blue shirt.