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Five Signings Chelsea Luckily Missed Out On

Time and again, Chelsea FT is filled with regrets about how we let likes of KDB, Salah, Lukaku and Thorgan Hazard be sold by the club s...

Time and again, Chelsea FT is filled with regrets about how we let likes of KDB, Salah, Lukaku and Thorgan Hazard be sold by the club so early. Personally, if you ask me, I would like to have a few of them back at the club – but that’s not how exactly football works. Some transfers are successful, and some are not. However, there are a few transfers which were ‘close shaves’. With 3 managers changed in last 4 campaigns, let's focus on how club ducked a few – in no specific order.

1. Aleksandr Golovin  (CSKA Moscow / AS Monaco) Hailed as Russia’s new shining star for his performance in World Cup 2018 opening game against Saudi Arabia – scoring one, assisting two and creating one. He was involved in 4 of the 5 goals scored. Golovin’s performance especially caught the eye of several big clubs including Real Madrid, Juventus, Napoli and Chelsea. Arsenal’s £10m bid for the player was rejected in summer of 2017. With ageing midfielders, Pedro and Willian, Chelsea stepped up interest in the player in summer of 2018. CSKA Moscow, his parent club then, expected £27m for the player. Leo Slutsky (Roman’s close friend), having brought Golovin to CSKA during his reign as manager there, provided a good word to the club. With Sarri to take charge at Chelsea in 2018, who was interested to bring the player to Napoli, a deal was nothing but imminent. However, the move failed, and player signed for AS Monaco instead, another club with Russian owner.

Priced at £27m, Leo Jardim considered him to be the ‘most important signing of the season’. Returning early from World Cup break, Golovin injured his ankle and missed initial 5 Ligue 1 fixtures. Since then, performances of Aleksandr Golovin have not been particularly good at the club level. He struggled with pace and physicality of Ligue 1 which evidently is way below the Premier League. Golovin ended 2018/19 season with 8 goal contributions in 35 appearances. A questionable record for a player who prominently played as Attacking Midfielder during the season. In the current season, Golovin has 7 goal contributions in 30 appearances. Golovin, a promised starter at Monaco, was included in the ‘flop XIs’ by French media and has a long road to regain his lost pride. With age on his side, the 23-year-old may be a player yet to reach his potential but would probably not have been a great addition to the Chelsea squad.

2. Andrea Belotti (Torino)
Summer transfer window of 2017, title-winning coach Conte dropped a message to Diego Costa, the leading goal scorer for Chelsea that season - ‘you are no longer in my plans for next season’. Now that’s a big void to fill when a player with 28 goal contributions (20G+8A) in PL alone - departs. With Loic Remy and Batshuayi at disposal, Chelsea was looking for a replacement – and the options like Lukaku, Morata and Belotti popped up. With Lukaku committing to United, Belotti was heavily linked to the Blues.

Belotti had mind-boggling stats for 2016/17 season with 31 goal contributions (28G+3A - 106’/contribution) in 38 appearances. With release clause of £87m, Chelsea made an unsuccessful attempt to buy Belotti in winter of 2017, when rumours of Costa to China surfaced. Belotti, however, was not interested to be a bench player and “would rather play for a small club than see myself on the bench”. During the summer window, Chelsea ended up buying Spaniard Alvaro Morata. Belotti was still expected to perform well in 2017/18 campaign. However, due to a knee injury, the Torino-star had rather a lacklustre campaign with only 18 goal contributions (13G+5A - 163’/contribution) in 35 appearances. In 2018/19 season, Belotti’s form dipped further with 18 goal contributions (17G+1A - 193’/contribution) in 39 appearances.

With the promising start he had and rejecting offers from big clubs in Europe, Belotti it seems will end his career with the mid-table club in Serie A. Obviously for future transfer options, his current performances do not justify his release clause at all. Probably, we dodged a bullet.

3. Andy Carroll (West Ham / Newcastle United)
Probably, the silliest of them all! I won’t spend my energy on stats at all for this one.
With Morata, on slightest contact hitting ground faster than ‘poop from goose’ and his “injury woes”, Chelsea were forced to look elsewhere during the 2018 winter transfer break. Carroll was one of the prime rumoured targets along with Richmond Boakye and Benteke. I still remember Conte, in a press conference, laughing for 10 seconds when asked about the probability of Carroll’s move to Chelsea with a £20m price tag for then 29-year-old. Only his ankle injury avoided his move to Chelsea from West Ham. Carroll’s physicality was probably the reason he was shortlisted, but Chelsea ended up buying Giroud. Arguably one of the best target-man centre forwards in the world of football. Giroud has been a steal at £18m, a proper team player, with 34 goal contributions (21G+13A – 111’/contribution) since joining Chelsea. Andy Carroll – another bullet dodged.

4. Nabil Fekir (Lyon / Real Betis)
The most interesting of them all. In my opinion, a player with immense potential and extraordinary qualities. Injuries took a toll on the player and on the prospect of him joining any big PL club.

Nabil Fekir’s move to Liverpool was imminent in the summer transfer window of 2018 until the eleventh hour when they pulled out due to injury concerns. Chelsea and Bayern Munich were other interested clubs. Chelsea was in desperate need of creative and goal-scoring winger/attacking player. With Pedro and Willian ageing, 25-year-old Fekir was on top of the list. Fekir had successful 2017/18 campaign with 31 goal contributions (23G+8A – 104’/contribution) with Lyon in Ligue 1. But in the same campaign, he had a 2-month injury break with a bruised knee. He had a similar knee injury in 2016/17 season which kept him on sidelines for a month. Liverpool diverted their attention elsewhere, declining £52m transfer of the player, and leaving no time for Chelsea to follow-up and complete the deal. Chelsea was, however, sceptical about Fekir’s knee injury then.

Again, in the winter transfer window of 18/19 campaign, Fekir was approached for transfer. Fekir, an excellent crosser of the ball and good at tackling & drawing fouls, was inferior to Willian and Pedro at dribbling. However, the goal-scoring prowess of Fekir was undeniable. With Chelsea signing Christian Pulisic in Jan ’19 window, it probably curtained any probability of future transfer of the player to Chelsea. Fekir had reasonable 2018/19 campaign with 21 contributions (12G+9A – 134‘/contribution). Fekir did not make it to the matchday squad on 14 occasions during the campaign.

Fekir secured a £19m transfer to Real Betis in summer window of 2019/20 and has 13 contributions (7G+6A – 149’/contribution) – which is decent considering him missing a few matches due to a muscular injury. Nabil Fekir – extremely talented but an injury-prone player who missed his bus to big clubs in PL. What a waste!

5. Elseid Hysaj (Napoli)
Hysaj, 26-year-old Albanian, joined the rumour mill with news of Sarri being shortlisted as manager of Chelsea. With Ancelotti at the helm of affairs at Napoli, Hysaj became more of a fringe player, frustrating and enforcing him to think for a move elsewhere. He was linked to Chelsea in winter 2019 window when Sarri was looking for a right-back whose playing style suited to ‘SarriBall’. An offer of £43m was allegedly made for the player, which was turned down by adamant Napoli owner, ADL. 

Azpilicueta has been at the heart of Chelsea’s backline since joining the club in 2012/13. Azpi is an orthodox, no-nonsense right back. However, with the new approach of ball-playing possession-based football – 30-year-old Azpi seemed to be a weak spot. Statistically, Azpilicueta is better than Hysaj in almost all defensive traits (tackles – 2.7 vs 1.8, interception – 2 vs 1.2, clearances – 3 vs 2, blocks – 0.4 vs 0.2). Hysaj would have been a better backup for Azpilicueta for last season, compared to Zappacosta. And Hysaj’s past understanding with Sarri would have had an added advantage. But as tables turned to the current season, with a transfer ban, Chelsea and Super Frank Lampard promoted Reece James to first team. A move loved by one and all. James is not yet a perfect right back, and has a lot to learn technically, but there can be no better mentor than Dave.

Written by - @vashicfc
Edit by - @KristenPulisic

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