The next season in the Premier League will undoubtedly be the most unpredictable yet. The three biggest clubs, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, have undergone or are amid a change in management, that could severely alter their fate in terms of success and failure in the near future, and furthermore, all, along with Arsenal, are expected to make serious financial investment in the coming transfer window on new recruits following a campaign of overall malaise in the English top flight, failing to impact on the Champions League and the title race being a one-horse affair.
No set of fans will expect change more than Chelsea’s – European escapades aside, the Blues have now spent two seasons coming up short domestically, finishing in sixth place last year, and currently set to finish up in third in the Premier League, without ever challenging the dominance of the two Manchester heavyweights, despite on the most part having the squad to do so.
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One area of the roster at Stamford Bridge which needs improving however is the striker department. It seems a little late in the day to move Fernando Torres on now, but his seven goals and six assists in 35 Premier League appearances certainly warrants the need for some added quality, whilst Demba Ba has proved to be useful if not clinical and Romelu Lukaku may well find himself on loan again next season considering he is still just 20 years of age. Furthermore, nothing signals intent on the part of a club or a new manager, with the most likely candidate being Jose Mourinho, than bringing in a new striker.
During the latter half of the season, and especially since his four goal flurry against Real Madrid, the talk of the town has been centred around the future of Robert Lewandowski. The Poland international has been sensational this season, with 23 goals and five assists in 30 Bundesliga performances, in addition to his showcasing to the rest of Europe with hot displays in the Champions League. The 24 year old would be a good fit in the Premier League, but with every continental superpower reportedly throwing offers at Borussia Dortmund for their star forward, should Chelsea be reverting back to a former transfer target, whom was expected to arrive in January – Radamel Falcao.
The Columbian hitman became the number one target for transfer speculation after his exceptional start to the season, recording a hatrick against Chelsea, rather fittingly for this article, in the European Super Cup final. Falcao’s talents were well recognised prior to the match, but the murmurings that the Blues were considering bringing the man who held them to the sword to Stamford Bridge triggered a flurry of reports linking him with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
Atletico Madrid put out the bait of his £46million release clause, meaning Falcao would be available to anyone who could cough up the cash, citing the financial problems at the La Liga club as a reason to allow the departure of their best player. But nobody took the all important bite. Many, including Arsene Wenger, optimistically flirted with the idea, discussing available funds, and plans for a marquee signing, but as Atletico dropped out of the Europa League and the January transfer window came and went, rumours of the 27 year old turning up on English shores began to die out, with the focus being on Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and more recently Wayne Rooney.
It appears the answer to the Falcao question on the part of the European powerhouses was an overall ‘no’. It’s easy to understand why; apart from his sensational finishing, there’s not much the Columbian can offer to open play, he’s short, he’s not the fastest, nor the youngest available, and with his goal tally levelling out towards the end of the year, the excessive price-tag is no longer cost-effective. But the lack of interest can surely only work in the Blues’ favour. The consensus has been that £46million is far too high, especially considering Lewandowski, Rooney and Cavani could all be available for less, meaning that if Atletico are really that keen to sell, Falcao’s actual fee will go down significantly in the summer.
Whereas £46million for a former Atletico player smacks of parallels with the purchase of Fernando Torres, getting arguably the world’s most prolific goal scorer at a discount is a much easier reality to live with for Roman Abramovich, even if the investment fails to make a return in terms of on pitch successes. Whenever purchasing a foreign import, there is always the element of risk that they quite simply will not be able to find their feet in the English game; the dogged and physical styles of Stoke, West Ham and Norwich are a far cry from the swanky middle-order flair teams of La Liga.
Yet, on paper at least, it seems Falcao would be a good fit at Stamford Bridge. Over the past few years, the Chelsea roster has transformed from one based around robustness and organisation to one focused on style and technique, with the central point being the three amigos – Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar – tucked in behind the striker in attacking midfield. Undoubtedly, the three exceptional talents would be able to provide the potential signing with opportunities to feet – by far the biggest asset to Falcao’s game and the most difficult type of chance to create in the Premier League.
Even if Jose Mourinho returned and administered his typical machine-like tactics one again in West London, it would not be a too distant situation for the Columbian than at Atletico, where Diego Simeone has made a knack out of grinding out clean sheets and single goal victories this season. Furthermore, the former Blues gaffer has witnessed Falcao’s abilities more than anyone, having spent the past three years in La Liga, and would know how to get the best out of him.
There’s no doubting Falcao’s abilities – a career total of 186 goals in 280 competitive appearances speaks for itself, especially considering that his best ratios have come at Porto and his current club. But it will all depend on who is in charge at Chelsea next season, and how they envisage the future of the first team.
The West Londoners’ biggest mistake in signing Fernando Torres was not the fee or the timing, but rather that he was not the signing of any particular manager. He was not brought in on behalf of Carlo Ancelotti, or with the view that the next manager, Andre Villas-Boas would be able to get the best out of him. He was Roman Abramovich’s desired purchase, and at the time, did not fit into the formation or style at Stamford Bridge at all. It’s created a stigmatism that has been self-perpetuating, and I’m sure the Blues won’t be happy in making the same mistake twice.
A player of Falcao’s quality has enough flexibility to be used in a variety of ways, yet the incoming manager will not see to get the best out of him, or form a team and methodology of play around him, if he is not their personally sought-after summer purchase, and if he does not fit with their vision of the club a few years down the line.
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