The news that Chelsea have been looking at Brazilian midfielder Ramires is not altogether surprising, especially considering the paucity of both quality and numbers that the club now possess in the middle of the park, but should Carlo Ancelotti be able to negotiate the successful transfer, we could seriously be looking at one of the transfer coup’s of the summer with the Benfica man currently one of the most underrated midfielders in Europe.
Ramires’ agent Luis Carlini has stated that “Many clubs from the big European leagues have been in contact about Ramires. Chelsea and Bayern have spoken to Benfica, but I can’t say more.” So it would appear that a move elsewhere in on the cards.
With Michael Ballack having departed for pastures anew after not having his contract renewed by the West London club, he set sail for former club Bayer Leverkusen. Deco too looks set to leave with a well-documented desire to move back to his homeland of Brazil not going unnoticed, and a move to Fluminense imminent. The club also let go of utility player Belletti this summer who was also capable, should the occasion call for it, of doing a shift in the middle.
This leaves the club with only three recognised central midfield players in their first team squad in Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien. Michael Mancienne cut his Premiership teeth at holding man for Wolves last season on loan, his energetic style of play, distribution and bite in the tackle proving a useful commodity for Mick McCarthy’s relegation threatened side, but such was his success last term for the club, that McCarthy wishes to have him back again this season either on loan or a permanent deal, and his stay at Chelsea only looks assured should they fail to add to their squad.
Lampard is a nailed on inclusion, and despite a poor World Cup he had a magnificent season for the reigning Champions last term and there are no worries about him. Mikel though remains something of a conundrum for me personally. Brought in to do an unfussy job quietly and efficiently, he more often than not does the exact opposite and his lack of development despite the large amount of game time he has acquired the past few seasons is a cause for concern and he has to be seen as more of a squad player as opposed to a guaranteed starter.
It is with Michael Essien though that the club has its greatest worry. The Ghanaian midfielder has started just 25 league game in the last two seasons and 40 across all competitions in the same time. Essien is quite simply a beast of a player, and when fit, he’s one of the most destructive midfielders in the world, but his fitness, or rather lack of it, means that manager Carlo Ancelotti cannot pencil his name in for next season’s team sheet with any degree of certainty.
This is where Ramires comes in. He is like Essien-light if you will. Not quite the midfield enforcer of the current Chelsea player but with a bit more pace, agility allied with a decent range of passing. Ramires missed Brazil’s exit to Holland at the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup with a suspension, but his rise to prominence has been a sharp one both within the national team and within European football.
Signed by Benfica for £6.5m last summer from Cruzeiro, the 23 year old has managed to force his way into the Brazil national team set-up under former manager Dunga and he went on to play four of Brazil’s five World Cup games this summer.
What does remain to be seen though is whether Benfica will want to let go of one of their most prized assets, a year after signing him, and more importantly, with the player in question only one year into a five-year deal, particularly after they just agreed to let go of star player Angel Di Maria to Real Madrid for £20m just last week.
Ramires would appear to be angling for a move by saying “I came to Europe to win championships. It is normal that I would look at any offers from clubs in bigger leagues but I am currently under contract and Benfica will have the final say.”
He may not come cheaply, but Benfica are fundamentally a selling club, and at the right price, Ancelotti should be able to get their man. Central midfield looks to be in need of some serious reinforcement and with Ramires in tow, Chelsea could go a long way to plugging an evident gap in their squad.
Written By James McManus