The Antonio Conte revolution at Stamford Bridge has entered rocky waters in recent weeks – although it steered clear of trouble last weekend via a 2-0 win over Hull City – with an ageing defence being the biggest cause for concern.
Indeed, veteran right-back Branislav Ivanovic was dropped for the KCOM Stadium win on Saturday as Conte tested the three-man defensive system that brought him so much success at Juventus, whilst Gary Cahill and summer (re-)signing David Luiz have struggled to forge a sturdy partnership in the absence of Chelsea’s ‘captain, leader, legend’ John Terry. At the same time, the debate rumbles on over whether Cesar Azpilicueta should play in a back three, at left-back or in his natural position of right-back.
Accordingly, countless sources have jumped on the bandwagon of suggesting defensive reinforcements will arrive in the New Year, with Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij and Villarreal’s Mateo Musacchio both linked yesterday, and The Telegraph are now having a go – reporting on Roman Abramovich’s apparent willingness to break the bank for Leonardo Bonucci.
They claim the Chelsea owner, following conversations with Conte, is ready to pay in excess of £60million to land the Italy centre-half when the transfer window re-opens in January, which would set a new world-record transfer fee for a defender. It follows news of the Russian billionaire preparing to back an overhaul of Conte’s squad and of Juventus officials travelling to London earlier this week.
The Telegraph describe him as the best defender in the world and although that might be the case, such a title is no means as prestigious at it may seem at this moment in time – the simple truth is that world-class centre-backs have become an incredibly rare breed, with PSG’s Thiago Silva, Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos (all of whom are coming to the end of their peaks) and Bayern Munich duo Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels the only true competitors.
Here’s a look at how he compares to some of those aforementioned names, courtesy of Squawka:
Likewise, £60million would constitute a new record transfer fee at Stamford Bridge and although their defence clearly needs some fresh blood, are the Blues really going to set a new benchmark of club spending on a centre-half who’ll turn 30 by the end of the season? We’re not so convinced – even if Bonucci is the best around at the moment.
That being said, Chelsea’s summer recruitment just hasn’t done the trick and January additions, at least at the top end of the transfer market, always come with an unwelcome premium. Furthermore, having an old ally from his Juve (and Italy) days would intrinsically aid Conte’s attempts to revitalise Chelsea, especially if he plans on utilising a three-man defence long-term. In a nutshell, it’s a deal that makes far more footballing than financial sense.