Reinforcements needed at Stamford Bridge.
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Chelsea have had one of the more interesting seasons of the current top flight clubs.
Startlingly dominant early on, it appeared as if they were going to waltz to the title.
Suddenly, an alarming drop in form between November and January saw the team win just two of eleven matches – with five losses included in a shocking total of ten points from 33 available.
The Chelsea first XI is considered at least the equal of any in the league, but if players such as Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda fail to hit the heights they are capable of, or Frank Lampard or John Terry get injured, they will undoubtedly struggle.
Unfortunately, all of that happened.
Roman Abramovich has been loathe to strengthen the Stamford Bridge squad in recent transfer windows, with Ramires and Yuri Zhirkov the only big signings to come in while plenty have exited.
The emphasis has been on bringing the side into profit, but if the club lose out on qualification for the lucrative UEFA Champions League qualification, that saving will cost more in the long run – especially with many of the team on the wrong side of 30.
Here are ten potential transfer targets for Chelsea this January.
1. Asmir Begovic
First things first: Chelsea’s need for a backup goalkeeper is clear.
Neither Ross Turnbull or Henrique Hilario have been particularly convincing for the Blues when called upon, and when Petr Cech has stayed down with injury after tough challenges with the likes of Tim Cahill, Chelsea fans have looked at each other with sheer terror in their eyes.
Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but Chelsea’s pursuit of Asmir Begovic last summer will likely be resuscitated in January.
2. David Luiz
Benfica central defender David Luiz is another long term target for Chelsea. Ricardo Carvalho departed for Real Madrid in the summer, and Chelsea did not secure a replacement.
Of course Branislav Ivanovic is more than capable of playing there, but he is looking increasingly better than Jose Bosingwa at right back. With Carlo Ancelotti reluctant to place his face in Jeffrey Bruma, a move for Luiz could well be on the cards, but the Brazilian would most certainly be expensive.
Chelsea are rumoured to be mulling over a £18m bid, sending Paulo Ferreira Benfica’s way to sweeten the deal.
3. Sergio Ramos
As a result of reportedly having had a bust up with Cristiano Ronaldo in training, Sergio Ramos now wants out of Real Madrid.
As one of the best right backs in the world, there will be no shortage of suitors, and with the defender shortage at Chelsea mentioned above, they may well move for the Spaniard.
Having won the European Championships and World Cup in recent years with Spain as first choice right wing back, Ramos is also a capable performer in central defence, and could solve all of Chelsea’s problems in one fell swoop.
Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho would be reluctant to sell him cheaply however – even as a favour to his former club.
4. Javier Pastore
If Chelsea are looking for a long term replacement for Frank Lampard in the long run, they could certainly do far worse than Argentinian playmaker Javier Pastore, who currently plies his trade for Serie A side Palermo.
Pastore is a clever, creative player who is renowned for his incisive passing and ability to quickly turn defence into attack, as well as a powerful long range shot.
His club president Maurizio Zamparini has repeatedly priced clubs out of a deal, but Roman Abramovich may now recognise the need to act before the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules come into place.
At 21, he has almost unlimited potential.
Chelsea had a bid rejected for Brazilian wonderkid Neymar rejected in the summer, and the 18 year-old signed a new contract with Santos instead.
The teenager’s volatile nature means that he is far from settled at his club though, and Chelsea could again attempt to swoop.
There is no doubt of Neymar’s ability.
Few can match his skill with the ball at his feet in the world game, but his petulant antics of rolling around on the floor when fouled will not win him many fans in the Premier League.
If he can mature under Carlo Ancelotti’s tutelage, he could be a wonderful long term replacement for either Florent Malouda on the left of the Chelsea forward line, or Nicolas Anelka on the right.
6. Alexis Sanchez
Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez is another player capable of playing those positions, as well as in the fantasista role just behind the strikers centrally.
The Udinese star had a wonderful 2010 World Cup for his country, and that coupled with his club form made him one of the most coveted players in Europe.
A prospective Chelsea transfer might have to wait until the summer though – Udinese sporting director Fabrizio Larini recently stated, “Sanchez away in January? We have already said and reiterated that he doesn’t move until June.”
He would likely cost between £15-20m.
7. Andy Carroll
Didier Drogba has had a fairly disastrous season by his own immeasurably high standards.
A bout of malaria hardly helped, but excluding penalties, Drogba has scored just three goals since mid September in all competitions.
Approaching his 33rd birthday, Chelsea soon have to think about a focal point for their attack, and 21 year-old Andy Carroll could prove to be that man.
At 6’5″, he is taller than Drogba, but is far closer to the Ivorian’s build than, say, Peter Crouch. A first England cap was granted earlier this season, and 11 Premier League goals at the halfway point of the season indicate he has adapted very well to the Premier League indeed.
Naturally, Newcastle United will be very reluctant to sell their top scorer.
8. Romelu Lukaku
Though reports today link Belgian teenager Lukaku to Manchester City, his preferred option would be Chelsea, where he would learn directly from his idol Drogba.
The Anderlecht striker is remarkably similar in build and even appearance to the Chelsea star, and could well have a fruitful career at Stamford Bridge.
As was the case once with Chelsea though, when Manchester City enter a bidding war the price automatically gets substantially inflated – and Chelsea might well be priced out of the market.
9. Alexandre Pato
How substantial Pato’s link to Chelsea is remains unclear. Of course, he worked under Carlo Ancelotti when the Blues manager was at AC Milan, but that seems to be as far as it has gone.
Pato possesses phenomenal talent – and certainly would not struggle to secure the required work permit to play England – but the 21 year-old Brazilian seems happy with the Rossoneri.
A repetitive hamstring injury has plagued his season so far, but it is difficult to argue with his overall record of 44 goals in 87 appearances for AC Milan.
Chelsea may well find it worth making Milan an offer they cannot refuse, though I should stress I mean a financial one rather than a horse head on the pillow.
10. Phil Jones
Chelsea’s coaching staff still remember Jones’ excellent performance on his debut for Blackburn Rovers back in March 2010.
The central defender, who is also comfortable in a holding midfield role, found his team down 1-0 in the first five minutes, but recovered excellently to dominate Drogba for the remainder of the match.
He won 12 of his 14 attempted tackles, 11 clearances, and gave a markedly mature performance for an 18 year-old against one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League.
Jones is currently out of action with a cruciate knee ligament issue, but Chelsea are believed to be negotiating with Blackburn for a first option deal upon his recovery.
It would be considerable foresight for the club to secure a player who looks the most promising English defender in years.
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