Regardless of whether the much-maligned Rafael Benitez can indeed salvage Chelsea’s flailing season, you don’t have to be particularly prophetic to predict that it’s likely to be all change at Stamford Bridge this summer.
And far from simply a more permanent appointment to the current ‘interim’ managerial post in West London, the likelihood is that there are set to be a few high profile switches amongst the pool of playing staff, aswell.
High up that agenda will undoubtedly be a new addition to a strike force whose impotency has formed a dejecting sub-plot to a season that’s felt unrelenting in it’s controversial consistency. The chief culprit would hardly be too difficult to spot in an identity parade, but after yet another hugely disappointing season, the feeling is that this summer must surely spell time-up on Fernando Torres’ Stamford Bridge career.
The list of potential suitors follows the usual ‘who’s who’ of European striking talent but while there can be no doubt that the likes of Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavano are likely to feature high up on the Blues’ shopping list, could their eventual league placing potentially damage their summer spending plans?
With the side currently only two points behind third-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League with a game in hand, they might not seem at any immediate risk at finishing outside of the top-four for the second consecutive season.
But with margins tighter than ever between both themselves, Spurs and fifth-placed Arsenal, it’d be a brave man that deems Chelsea a banker for a finish within the top-four and should they manage to end up below both North London clubs in the league standing – a feat that is by no means out of the question – there is no shot at European glory to bail themselves out of a failure to qualify for the Champions League.
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And if you’re a Falcao or a Cavani, as one of the most in-demand strikers in European football, you can’t imagine the prospect of not plying your trade on the biggest stage of them all feels particularly appealing.
Money talks and at Stamford Bridge, the striking duo will find as much of it there as perhaps anywhere else on the continent, bar a very select few Russian clubs. But the riches on offer at Chelsea are no longer quite as unrivalled as they have been in previous years and the Blues won’t be able to offer them anything the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona cannot. Finish outside the top-four however and that might just have to change.
Similarly to the feeling of inevitability that bubbled within some quarters following Pep Guardiola’s touted move to Stamford Bridge, there seems to be something of a similar sentiment regarding the arrival of a world-class centre-forward this summer. But unless the club bucks their ideas up and start turning it on in the league, that feeling of inevitability could be similarly shredded in the way Guardiola’s decision to plump for a spell in Germany hurt their managerial ambitions.
The trepidation over what direction that managerial appointment is going to go down is enough to unsettle potential future recruits as it is, let alone the prospect of a season outside of the Champions League. For Falcao especially, for however much money he may be offered, would he really not even hesistate at the prospect of substituting a potential Champions League campaign for another shot in the Europa League?
After all, for as many merits as Uefa’s secondary cup competition may have, it’s one that he’s already won twice with both Porto and Atletico Madrid. After missing out on the chance to play in the Champions League this season and with Atletico looking odds on to qualify for it this season, would he really be happy to consign himself to another season without playing in the competition?
Similarly with Cavani, after sitting out the Champions League for a season with Napoli, the club now looks in pole position to right that wrong at the end of this season. He’d certainly double his wage-packet by moving to Chelsea in the summer, but should they not qualify for the Champions League, would he still be that keen to move?
There’s no reason to think at this moment in time that Chelsea won’t be able to offer these sort of players the highest platform of them all to express themselves upon. But should they fail to qualify for the Champions League, it could be a struggle trying to chase two strikers that have already been starved of at least one season in the Champions League. Especially so when they could earn similar money elsewhere, but without the need to sacrifice elite European competition.
Last season’s poor showing in the Premier League was rendered redundant by their European glory, but for as historic a night it may have been in Munich, the attainment of another stint in the competition masked what could have been a hugely damaging summer for the club in terms of squad rebuilding.
This time around, there is no get out of jail free card. Roman Abramovich’s millions usually tend to get him whatever he wishes and that may well still be the case in the chase for both Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani. But fail to finish inside the top-four and no amount of money in the world will be able to afford these two strikers what they crave above everything else.