When it comes to transfer speculation, be it players supposedly coming or going, there are always myriad rumours associated with Chelsea Football Club.
Typically, much of the conjecture comes to nothing. In the recent past there were the purported shoo-in signings of Paul Pogba, John Stones and Romelu Lukaku that never materialised, and on the flip side of course the perennial favourites for departure to Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard.
Another player recently linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, Southampton centre-back Virgil van Dijk, announced on Wednesday that he would be joining Liverpool. The fee, £75 million, a world record for a defender, has desperation etched all over it as many January transfers do.
Last Friday, Jurgen Klopp’s side surrendered a two-goal lead to Arsenal at the Emirates went 3-2 behind before scrambling an equaliser. That game alone probably gave Klopp enough ammunition to persuade the Anfield board to pay what almost looks like a ransom demand from their St. Mary’s counterparts for Van Dijk’s services. The 26-year-old Netherlands international will certainly help shore up the Liverpool’s leaky backline, but there are plenty of expert pundits out there who are validly reasoning that he’s not worth £75m.
Had Chelsea been successful in their endeavours to lure Van Dijk to the Bridge the chances are that Andreas Christensen would not have broken through into the Blues first team. The demise of David Luiz has presented the 21-year-old academy graduate with an opportunity and he has impressed sufficiently enough for Blues boss Antonio Conte to describe him as the club’s present and future, and a possible future captain. Praise indeed, and how highly will Christensen be valued in five years time given the Van Dijk figure.
Amusingly, or not as the case may be, Liverpool paying way too much for a player who addresses an immediate need has potentially created a problem for Chelsea. Blues supporters will no doubt have chuckled at the Reds defensive mishaps at the Emirates, but the following day the smiles disappeared as their team failed to score against Everton having dominated possession and created chance after chance.
Shorn of the services of “fatigued” striker Alvaro Morata, Conte deployed Hazard as a false nine, but for all the attractive play the Toffees’ defence could not be breached.
Morata was back to lead the line on Boxing Day and scored in a routine 2-0 win over Brighton. Conte’s lack of faith in Chelsea’s only other out-and-out forward, Michy Batshuayi, has been evident pretty much for the entire season and a half both men have been at the club. It’s not going to change now and so the problem remains. What happens when the somewhat fragile Morata gets tired again or tweaks his hamstring or has a backache? Well it seems that Chelsea will fail to score goals which obviously isn’t good enough.
The big question going into the window then is whether the Blues board make a decisive move to sign a proven striker. It’s not a question of money, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has a bottomless pit of cash — just as well because every potential selling club will already have sense of Conte’s frustration and add a fair few million onto any transfer fee that might be haggled.
Abramovich offering to pay Daniel Levy the building cost of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in exchange for the services of prolific striker Harry Kane would be nice, but it’s a pipe dream that isn’t going to happen. An audacious swoop for Arsenal contract rebel Alexis Sanchez is not beyond the realms of possibility. The Gunners forward would be an outstanding acquisition but the reality is he will remain at the Emirates until the summer before leaving on a free.
Fantasy football options aside, there are no obvious choices for Chelsea. Having already raided Leicester for N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater it’s clear the boards of both clubs can put a deal together which makes the chances of signing Foxes striker Jamie Vardy a practical possibility. There is no doubt at all that Vardy, who has scored 70 goals in 187 appearances in all competitions for the King Power club, could do a job for the Blues who were linked with the player in the summer.
What will happen though is anyone’s guess. Chelsea paying Leicester £50m for 30-year old Vardy would be as ridiculous as the £75m Liverpool shelled out for van Dijk, more so perhaps given the striker’s age. The thing is though, in a similar way to Van Dijk potentially solidifying the Reds defence and keeping Klopp in his job, if Vardy solved Conte’s problem and better still scored the goals that secured some form of silverware for the Blues then it would be viewed as money well spent.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC’s Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco