Five box-to-box stars Chelsea should target this summer

Chelsea’s difficult season didn’t get any easier this weekend, suffering a 3-0 defeat at home to Manchester City on Saturday.

And one of the real problem areas for the Blues against the Citizens was central midfield; whilst former Chelsea youngster Kevin de Bruyne ran absolute riot at the other end, John Obi Mikel, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Cesc Fabregas failed to find any rhythm as a trio.

It seems there is a missing element in the Blues’ engine room and in the opinion of some, including us at FootballFanCast, a dynamic box-to-box of top class quality is the ingredient currently evading the west Londoners – someone with the natural athleticism and all-round game to balance out Fabregas’ flair and Nemanja Matic’s defensive protection.

With that in mind and the next transfer window now just around the corner, here are FIVE box-to-box stars we think Chelsea should make a move for during the summer.

ARTURO VIDAL


Having flourished into one of the leading midfielders in world football under Antonio Conte’s direction at Juventus, lifting four consecutive Serie A titles during their four campaigns together in Turin, Chelsea have already been linked with Bayern Munich star Arturo Vidal.

In typical Chilean style, the 74-cap international blends incredible industry and technical flair with a warrior-like spirit, earning him the moniker ‘El Guerriero’ over in Italy, and isn’t too shabby in front of goal either, notching up a career return of 78 in 375.

The Bavarians signed Vidal last summer but already aged 28 and famed for a faulty knee – suggesting his box-to-box days could well be numbered – a bid matching the club’s original €37million investment may just tempt them into selling this summer.

Radja Nainggolan


Radja Nainggolan’s stock has continually risen since signing for Roma in January 2014 and his Champions League displays this season, averaging 2.3 tackles, 2.3 interceptions, one created chance and 37 passes per match, have particularly caught the eye.

The Belgium international offers aggression and shin-shattering challenges in abundance, but it’s the drive he offers in attack, not to mention the ability to pull off the occasional sublime pass, that makes him such an effective box-to-box midfielder.

Like Vidal, Chelsea have been linked with the 27-year-old frequently since Antonio Conte was announced as their next manager and The Guardian claim that talks over a summer move are already underway. But Giallorossi are holding out for a somewhat steep €35million.

N’GOLO KANTE


Since signing for Leicester City last summer, N’Golo Kante has emerged as arguably the top enforcer in the Premier League, averaging the most tackles per match, 4.5, and second-most interceptions per match, 4.1, of any player in the division.

Yet, Kante’s contributions going forward have been arguably as vital to the Foxes’ cause. His explosive runs through the middle of the park and his ability to find Jamie Vardy with ranging passes have both become defining features of the Foxes’ counter-attacking style, and his overall energy is simply phenomenal.

Rumour has it the France international’s contract includes a £20million release clause, making him potentially the cheapest box-to-box star on this list, and Chelsea have already been linked. But Leicester City will be determined to hold onto the 25-year-old with Champions League football for next season already guaranteed.

RENATO SANCHES


If Chelsea fancy taking a punt on a promising youngster, then Renato Sanches could be the perfect candidate to add some craft and energy to their labouring midfield.

The prodigious youngster is just 18 years of age and made his Benfica debut in October, but has already done enough to earn two caps for the Portugal national team, comparisons with Brazilian legend Ronaldinho and an improved contract with an alleged €80million release clause.

The teenage prodigy is certainly a different kind of player to Ronaldinho – more balanced between defence and attack and notably more of an athlete – but he does have that knack of producing moments of individual brilliance.

Owen Hargreaves insists the Portuguese prospect is well worth meeting Benfica’s alleged £47million asking price for, but something tells me Chelsea will need a little more convincing.

PAUL POGBA


The archetype of a box-to-box midfielder, Juventus star Paul Pogba possesses a bit of everything. He’s technically skilled, athletic, powerful, a consistent passer and a real handful in front of goal, set to record a double-digit haul across all competitions for the second season in a row.

Pogba moves with that ranging glide reminiscent of Patrick Vieira or Yaya Toure and aged just 23, appears to have an incredible future ahead of him at the very top of the game. He’s already lifted three Serie A titles, started in a Champions League final and won Europe’s prestigious Golden Boy award.

According to London Evening Standard, the 6 foot 2 midfielder is at the top of Antonio Conte’s wish list ahead of the summer transfer window. But Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid are also hot on Pogba’s heels and the absence of Champions League football at Stamford Bridge next season could ultimately cost the Blues.