With the transfer rumour mill rife during the window, that Declan Rice would be joining us from West Ham, it was arguably the only disappointment in what was, let’s face it, a brilliant transfer window for Chelsea football club. I personally have my doubts about Rice, but I certainly think he’d add to the squad. For a start, the fact that he can also play Centre Half is a bonus from the point of view of the adaptability and flexibility of position, which seems to be a main theme in Chelsea’s transfer business.
Declan Rice was valued at £80 million by West Ham. I can see why Chelsea baulked at that after spending almost a quarter of a billion pounds on new players, whilst finding it hard to offload many of a large squad, on big wages, who they obviously wanted to unload and free up cash.
So are there any alternatives out there, particularly with Thomas Partey joining Arsenal, in what I think was a great bit of transfer business for them and a steal at £45 million.
Turns out there are. However, the top three that I’ve picked are purely subjective, because there are many more out there at various prices and each come with their own positives and negatives.
So here goes. My three possible targets if the Declan Rice deal isn’t possible for one reason or another.
Number one is Marco Verratti of PSG, who for me is the best defensive midfielder in Europe (if not the world) – after, funnily enough, N’Golo Kante. He also has a big playmaking side to his game. He’s a sort of dynamic Jorginho and at 28 next birthday (November 5th) he’s probably in his prime. At only 5’5” he’s to say the least diminutive in stature, but as we learned when we played PSG and he was in the side, he’s like a little bull dog – and whilst known primarily as an offensive player, I have seen him play a more defensive, holding role with excellent effect. He is known for his aggression, defensive skills and ball-winning abilities, despite his small physique and I for one would love to see him at Chelsea.
Verratti is predominantly right footed but can use the left with great effect, and the great Carlo Ancelotti is quoted as saying, “who wouldn’t want Marco Verratti in their team, he’s the complete, all round midfielder.” His playing style and aggression has given him quite a long disciplinary record, which is the one negative for me, but counteracting that he seems a really humble guy too. He once said when asked at a press conference. “100 million euros for me? I’m not worth that. No footballer is. It’s just funny money. All we do is kick a ball.” So maybe the sort of humble leader we need as well? He would be available for around £90 million if reports are to be believed and he may well relish a new challenge.
Given Chelsea’s tendency to buy youthful, another possibility, who is even younger than rice is Eduardo Camavinga (born 10 November 2002) who plays for Rennes and the France national team.
At 17 years and 11 months, he made his debut for the French National side and made his mark with a goal, from a stunning overhead kick. He’s a box to box midfielder like Lampard and has a great engine, but he’s currently deployed as a defensive midfielder by Rennes and is being noticed for his qualities in that position. Real Madrid have already made clear their interest in the prodigy.
Making the best of his superb physical and technical abilities, he has been likened to Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, but what is un-Pogba like is the other side of his game – his workaholic trait and tenacity in the middle of the park has seen him compared to another France midfielder and Chelsea stalwart N’Golo Kante.
To summarise his abilities, the six foot tall Camavinga is excellent when it comes to clearances, recoveries and interceptions. I think he’d be the perfect foil at present and then the perfect replacement for N’Golo, when the sad time comes and the little man hangs up his boots.
Definitely one to watch, keep your eyes out for Camavinga. Rennes value him in the region of 60 million euros, but I’m sure Marina could work her magic and she knows the team she’d be negotiating with. She’d need to be quick though as Real Madrid and Dortmund have both made enquiries if the press reports can be believed.
My last possible Rice substitute is Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, the Lazio and Serbia midfielder. At 6’3” I think he’d add the power to Chelsea’s midfield that I feel we sometimes lack, when we get into a ‘battle’. I know we are not that kind of side and purists would say, play around it, but when I think back to the Essiens and the Ballacks in our history, we’ve nearly always had a good physical presence in our midfield. Look at Matic in our last league win? He would put the boot in when necessary and has done so against us ever since!
So Milinkovic-Savic is not 26 until February, 2021 and so would justify paying a decent fee to Lazio for. A five-year contract, still seeing him in his prime at the end of it.
A versatile player, he is capable of playing in several midfield roles, including as a ‘trequartista’ or in a holding role, although he is usually deployed as a central midfielder in the ‘mezzala’ role. His style of play has been compared by pundits and coaches alike to Yaya Touré, as he moves defence into attack, breaking up play and starting attacks, very much a Matic with pace, kind of style.
Obviously older than Rice and more experienced, I also think he has a subtlety to his game that Rice hasn’t acquired yet. Yes, I’d like to see him at Chelsea but the downside is his £85 million valuation which supposedly put Real Madrid off of signing him last season.
So there we have my alternatives to Rice and it’ll be interesting to hear yours.
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