The signing to give Chelsea a genuine title tilt?
The January transfer window usually tends to represent the opportunity for a quick fix or the chance to add a bit of well needed squad cover for most Premier League teams. If you’re Chelsea, or more to the point Roman Abramovich however, that’s not necessarily the case.
Indeed, as we approach the two year anniversary of Fernando Torres’ £50million British transfer record move from Liverpool, it seems fitting that the Blues should have their eyes on another mid-season blockbuster deal in the form of Atletico Madrid hitman Radamel Falcao.
It is of course the rumour that simply refuses to go away and with reports suggesting that Torres could in fact be dropped for Chelsea’s crunch Champions League game with Juventus this evening, a touted deal for the Colombian is hardly beyond the realms of possibility.
A £48million release clause in his contract suggests that Abramovich would have to dig deep to prise him away from the Vicente Calderon Stadium, but with Atletico still mired in continued financial woe and Chelsea seemingly willing to shell out whatever it might take, we might be treated to some January fireworks after all. Certainly if nothing else, the player himself seems to have little problem picturing himself in West London.
While it stopped short of a come-and-get-me plea, Falcao’s recent comments were hardly drenched in subtlety. Speaking last week, the former Porto man said: “Chelsea are champions of Europe and there is not much more to say than that.
”Even after winning the Champions League they still go and sign players of the highest quality. Their ambition is clear.
“There is so much quality and it is such an exciting league. Of course it is nice to think I might play in it [Premier League].”
With the player himself seemingly more than happy to have a go at plying his trade in this country, there’s every chance that this bit of transfer business has legs. But aside from the potentially blockbuster financial context, what could Falcao actually give to Roberto Di Matteo’s side?
As Roman Abramovich knows only too well, a bank-busting price tag doesn’t always guarantee you success, as the man whom Falcao would theoretically be coming to replace remains living evidence of. Fernando Torres was, albeit the more domestically familiar, Radamel Falcao of 2011. The Spaniard was shipped in from Liverpool for a huge financial outlay with the premise that he could solve a long-term solution for the striking department at Stamford Bridge.
To say the results have been a disappointment is probably something of an understatement. Because for all the excuses, the gripes about form, position, adjustment; it simply doesn’t matter. As a striker, you will forever be judged on the amount of time you put the ball in the back of the net.
Torres’ current strike rate reads at a lowly 11 goals in 58 Premier League games. As it stands, that is exactly the same amount that Ade Akinbiyi managed in an identical number of games during his shocker of a stint for Leicester City once upon a time – one that was deemed bad enough to see him banished from the top flight for the rest of his career.
Perhaps most importantly, it is when comparing Chelsea’s attacking outlet to the teams of which they strive to compete with, in which you find the most damning statistic. Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney notched up 57 league goals between them last season. Manchester City’s quartet of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli managed 54 amongst themselves last term. Yet Torres and Daniel Sturridge managed only 17 goals last season. Sturridge provided 11 of those.
That is something Chelsea must address if they wish to push forward with a realistic title challenge this year. Although the talents of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar should all be expected to chip in with goals this term, the burden of real expectation must fall with their striking counterpart, something that simply isn’t happening at the moment.
If Di Matteo continues to stick with Torres up front in his current guise and form, it is incredibly difficult to see how the Blues can mount a title challenge. And after nearly two years of mediocrity, you have to ask yourself whether that is ever likely to permanently change.
Because for all Falcao’s stunning array of footballing gifts, perhaps it is that consistency that is just as important as any form of technical attribute. When Chelsea signed Torres, although many might not have predicted quite the fall from grace, there was already the feeling that he was relatively damaged goods. With Falcao, you simply couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Colombian has scored 30 goals plus in all competitions for the last three years on the trot and his record since joining Atletico Madrid from Porto in 2011 reads at 34 goals in 43 league games. This is a man currently enjoying the form of his life and at 26, the best could be yet to come. Chelsea felt the wrath of his ability first hand when he almost single handedly dismantled them in the 4-1 Uefa Super Cup victory earlier on this season.
The only possible question mark could be upon how he adapts to the rigors of English football. But despite being a remarkably natural goalscorer with both his left and right foot, Falcao is a devastating aerial presence. The Premier League can be a formidable beast physically, but don’t think for five minutes that the Atletico man hasn’t got what it takes to cut it on these shores. This is a striker who truly ranks among the world’s elite.
It’s going to take an enormous amount of money to bring Radamel Falcao to Stamford Bridge and given the potential loss they may inevitably end up taking on their last January mega-purchase, it may only be natural to harbour the odd reservation about shelling out such an extraordinary amount of money.
Although should Abramovich make a deal for Falcao stick come January, the New Year would suddenly look a whole lot brighter for the men from Stamford Bridge.
Is it Falcao in and Torres out for you at Stamford Bridge? Join me on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and tell me what you think.