Chelsea given hope of completing £43m January transfer after World Cup amid Rafael Leao failed transfer


It was remarkable that a squad without the addition of a senior midfielder in four years got to the final weeks of a transfer window without trying to address the problem. Did Chelsea think that the deal for Frenkie de Jong was more likely to get done than it actually was? The stand-off with Barcelona never looked entirely promising, and there weren’t names sprawling out of the club as back-ups, De Jong or bust for now, Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice next summer.

The issue is that to get to next summer you need to cross a grand chasm. A 50-odd game long season with a winter World Cup and increased strain on the centre of the pitch. Come 2023 and it’ll be five years since a senior first team midfielder has been signed on a permanent deal.

Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic was doubted in its infancy under Maurizio Sarri in 2018, here we are and they remain the pillars of the Chelsea midfield. In the meantime Manchester City have moved from Fernandinho to Rodri, David Silva to Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne has a serious engine and Ilkay Gundogan has mastered his art. Even the addition of Carney Chuwkuemeka, though useful and exciting, wasn’t one for now and wasn’t going to stop the crumble.

Their panic to sign someone on deadline day only highlighted the issue. Denis Zakaria wasn’t ready for first team football when he joined- though recent outings suggest he’s been underused – whereas Saul Niguez was a horror show last year. The Blues did try to sign Ajax’s midfielder Edson Alvarez and reports suggest they’ll strongly go back in for him, but if he was that sought-after why did it take so long to make a move? This is, in essence, the pitfalls of allowing a manager control of the transfers.

Thomas Tuchel didn’t think there was a midfield issue – though it appeared glaring – and he wasn’t willing to use Chukwuemeka or Billy Gilmour. Southampton happens and then he realises how suddenly he needed one all along. It’s not the activity of an elite team, it really does show where Chelsea are at. Alvarez has admitted too that it was the timing that stopped the deal after a late £43m bid went in. Speaking to Star+ the Mexican international said:

“There had been a follow-up of course and we never, never imagined that in the last few days that bid would come in, so it was a complicated scenario since Ajax really had their hands tied, they couldn’t do anything, they didn’t have a player in my position. “Obviously, I fought as hard as I could, I didn’t want to stretch things so much either because I know the responsibility I have here at the club, but in the end, you know that everything changes, a better league, a better life for you and your family.”

For Chelsea, had they signed Alvarez then it would undoubtedly have eased the workload on their current crop of players, it may also have allowed for a change of system. Although it would be a one-in-one out thing, if Alvarez had joined it may have allowed Chelsea to get more money for Jorginho as he heads into the final eight months of his contract too.

With the World Cup around the corner and Alvarez in the mix for his country, he is another player that will be in the shop window as Graham Potter looks to make his own calls on the Chelsea transfer decisions. Todd Boehly also knows, however, that Alvarez remains keen on a move. The 25-year-old said:

“I am very disappointed about it [failed move to Chelsea]. But I am convinced that one day a big club will come. “We never expected Chelsea to put in another bid at the end of August. It was a difficult situation. Ajax couldn’t do anything.”

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