As the price for Luka Modric continued to rise to almost extortionate amounts, the likelihood that Chelsea were going to look for a cheaper alternative increased in the closing days of the transfer window although few would have predicted that man being Liverpool’s Raul Meireles, joining Chelsea with only minutes left on the deadline day clock.
Despite enjoying an impressive first season for the Reds (in which he was a regular fixture, making 44 appearances) Meireles had oddly looked more like a substitute option for Kenny Daglish, new signings pushing him down the pecking order. There had been talk of the potential move in the lead up to deadline day, with a reported cash plus player deal initially rejected by the Reds. But Chelsea’s apparent desperation for midfield cover and a reported late transfer request from the player himself to push through the deal saw the Portuguese international move to Stamford Bridge in what was the one of the latest and most shocking moves on deadline day. But did Chelsea make the right choice in going for Meireles?
The apparent desperation of the deal (something that most late deals can be labeled as the transfer window draws to a close) does initially make you question what role Meireles will play in the team. He joined for £12 million, a reasonable fee based on his performances and a lot cheaper than any potential Modric deal but the midfielder will still need to perform in a Chelsea shirt to justify Andre Villas-Boas’ very late move in the transfer market. The obvious need for creativity in the centre of the park meant that Chelsea spent a lot of the summer chasing Modric and if Chelsea had managed to agree a deal with Tottenham, would Meireles have still been making the move to London?
But it seems very unfair to label Meireles, last season’s PFA Fans’ player of the year, as second choice. He enjoyed a very successful debut season at Liverpool, scoring five goals in six games during a productive month in early 2011 including finding the winner for Liverpool against Chelsea. During that period especially the 28-year-old showed how useful an acquisition he could be for any Premier League team, managing to score and assist goals when given the freedom to roam forward. He may not be as much of a direct creative force as Luka Modric (despite Meireles bettering Modric’s record of three goals and three assists last season) but he will offer versatility and should fit well into Villas-Boas’ 4-3-3 formation.
But the success of the move for Meireles and Chelsea will depend on whether he can actually break into the Chelsea manager’s first team plans. The pair spent a very brief spell together at Porto before Meireles left for England so the Chelsea boss will have a good understanding of the player he has just acquired. But Meireles may have trouble displacing the likes of Frank Lampard, Ramires and John Mikel Obi, all of whom have potentially specific roles within the new manager’s midfield set-up. Meireles decision to move and Chelsea’s willingness to pay £12 million very late on for him will look like a terrible waste of Sky Sports News’ deadline day headlines if his Chelsea career goes the same way as another former Liverpool player to make the same move, Yossi Benayoun.
If Chelsea fans see the best of Meireles then he will look like a bargain compared to the hefty fees Chelsea were nearly prepared to pay for Modric but Meireles will have to be given enough of an opportunity at Chelsea to prove he is more than just a second choice panic buy.
Do you think Meireles will be a success at Chelsea? If you want to read more of my bite size, 140 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5