Chelsea currently occupy fourth position in the Premier League table, and they’ve reached the semi-final of the Carabao Cup and the knockout stages of the Europa League. Accordingly, Maurizio Sarri deserves praise for the manner in which he has acclimatised to English football, and for the speedy revision of Chelsea’s style of play.
Plausibly, except a miraculous succession of victories, the Blues are out of the title race, but a couple of sincerely talented additions could significantly enhance the quality of their squad. As the January transfer window approaches, speculation has begun to simmer ahead of the new year, and one player that is of alleged interest to Chelsea (Napoli Magazine via Daily Star) is Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj.
Despite the reported gentleman’s agreement between the Blues and Napoli, Hysaj would be available to sign for the FA Cup holders if they were to exercise his €50m release clause (Tuttosport via talkSPORT).
The 24-year-old knows Sarri tremendously well having worked with the Chelsea manager at Empoli, and subsequently at Napoli when the 59-year-old took charge of the Naples side. From this perspective, a potential move for the Albanian defender seems utterly logical; a player that is well attuned to Sarri’s desired style of football, and to the pressures of playing under the man himself.
Furthermore, despite only being 24, Hysaj has amassed considerable appearances both at club level and on the international stage, and he has ample time to continue his progression. The full-back is a particularly good passer, a key feature for a desired Sarri player, and his ball retention is also impressive. His talent and credentials are irrefutably positive, but, quite frankly, Chelsea do not need him.
Despite his attacking limitations, Cesar Azpilicueta has adapted well to life under the Blues’ new boss, and his recent performance in the victory against Brighton was a timely reminder of his reputation as the best 1v1 defender in the Premier League – if not in Europe. Also, the Spaniard only signed a new four-year-deal at the start of the month; it appears that his club future is distinctively blue.
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Chelsea also have Davide Zappacosta and Victor Moses contracted to the club; the former is currently the deputy to Azpilicueta, while the latter could operate at right-back in the event of an injury crisis. Azpilicueta is a fundamental player due to his leadership qualities and invaluable experience. Thus, the act of spending €50m (£45.12m) on another right-back seems utterly redundant.
If Hysaj were a player of extreme attacking quality, and could justifiably displace Azpilicueta in Chelsea’s starting eleven, then the transfer would seem amiable. That said, he has only scored one goal throughout the entirety of his professional career, and during his four seasons (2014-15 to 2017-18) under Sarri’s tutelage in Serie A, he registered only seven assists.
By contrast, in that same period, Azpilicueta has contributed towards 23 league goals, scoring five and registering 18 assists. Even Zappacosta has contributed towards 14 league goals (in the Serie A and Premier League), scoring six goals and providing eight assists. Certainly, Hysaj is an accomplished defender, but it would be controversial to suggest that he’s of superior quality to Azpilicueta.
Having considered these factors, it seems strange and almost illogical that the Blues – who have been more cautious with their spending in recent seasons – would be prepared to part with €50m for a player that doesn’t improve the quality of their starting eleven.
Indeed, Chelsea’s most pressing concern is their need for attacking reinforcements, chiefly a striker who can score on a continuous basis. Also, some Chelsea fans would cite the eagerness for another winger to augment the competition between the ageing duo of Willian and Pedro.
Despite his evident quality and close ties to Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea should opt against signing Hysaj.