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Jul 212014

Screenshot 2014 07 21 17.01.26 JULY TRANSFER TALK AND TEAM NEWS CHELSEA FC

Chelsea’s projected starters for the 2014-2015 season, according to ESPN FC’s Craig Burley. [ESPNFC]

At the end of last season, Chelsea FC were a team left wanting for just a little bit more.  More efficiency in attack.  More quality in midfield.  More ruthlessness in defense.  Mourinho openly stated that his team were deficient in key areas which would eventually prove pivotal for their chances of success.  Whether a smoke screen for media scrutiny or an honest assessment, José’s words turned out to be true.  Coming up short in the league – finishing 3rd behind rivals Liverpool and Manchester City – left a bitter taste in the mouths of Chelsea fans, and none more sour than Mourinho’s.  Losing to eventual runners-up Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semifinal threw salt in an already sore wound.  To come so close yet fail to earn any silverware is an experience few Chelsea bosses have endured while managing to keep their jobs.  But José, as we’ve all come to learn, is somewhat of a “special” case.

Before the summer had even begun there were whispers of a Chelsea raid on Diego Simeone’s Cinderella-storied Atleti, who shocked the world by winning the La Liga title – out-muscling league powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona – and certainly deserved their spot in the Champions League final.  Unsurprisingly, much of the speculation prior to Chelsea facing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semifinal centered around Chelsea’s interest in signing Atleti striker Diego Costa.  It came as no shock that many reports were suggesting a deal had been finalized between the two clubs prior to them even competing.  Costa wasn’t the only one who caught Mourinho’s eye.  Left back Filipe Luis, centre-back Joao Miranda, midfielder Tiago Mendes and on-loan Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois were all high on the list of players to pursue come the end of the season.  Courtois has been on-loan at Atletico making a name for himself with impressive performances.  After ten seasons as Chelsea’s number one, Petr Cech is reaching the twilight of his career, and Mourinho wants Courtois back at Stamford Bridge to have some competition at the goalkeeping position.  Indeed, at only 22 years of age, Courtois is clearly the future shot-stopper of the club, and he may end up cementing that position as early as this season.

Now, with less than 45 days remaining until the close of the summer transfer window, Chelsea have spent £82 million.  While that sounds like the outrageous spending associated with the early days of Roman Abramovich, it’s actually an illustration of the great business Chelsea has managed to conduct in recent times.  Over the past two transfer windows, the Blues completed the sales of Juan Mata to Manchester United (£37.1 million) and David Luiz to Paris Saint-Germain (£50 million) and can now afford to spend big in order to secure their most coveted signings.

It would appear that the West London giants have done just that.  Along with former Atleti teammate Diego Costa, Filipe Luis has been convinced to join the 2012 Champions League winners, after Chelsea paid Atleti each of their respective release clauses.  The departure of Ashley Cole for AS Roma demanded the purchase of another world-class player at left back, and, in Filipe Luis, Mourinho has found that.

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Fresh Faces: Fabregas, Costa and Luis take part in a training session at Cobham. The three were signed this summer for £82m total. []

Frank Lampard, another Chelsea legend who made his departure at the end of last season, was arguably Chelsea’s best midfielder ever and his role will be hard to fill.  Tiago Mendes, a versatile midfielder for Atletico, and formerly of Chelsea, was on José’s list of possible acquisitions but he has just signed a new two year deal at the Madrid club.  Perhaps the most interesting inclusion to the new-look Blues’ team, and one made necessary by the departure of Lampard, is former Barcelona and Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas.  With rumors that he was surplus to requirements after the Catalan side purchased the impressive Ivan Rakitic from Europa League winners Sevilla, Chelsea moved quickly to secure the signature of the former Arsenal captain.  Arsenal were also interested, as they had first option at reacquiring him, but apparently Wenger wasn’t too keen to bring the Spaniard back as he already has a midfield boasting several creative attacking midfielders.  Mourinho, in typically outspoken fashion, told BT Sport that the Fabregas capture was “easy,” hinting that the midfielder never wanted to return to Arsenal at all.  Not one to shy away from controversy or drama, it seems Mourinho has begun his antics a month earlier than usual.

Screenshot 2014 07 21 17.23.23 JULY TRANSFER TALK AND TEAM NEWS CHELSEA FC

New signings Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis show off the Chelsea colors at their first training session. []

Diego Costa joins fellow countryman Fernando Torres as José’s two main strikers currently available to start the season.  Demba Ba has seen his last days in a Chelsea shirt after being purchased by Turkish outfit Besiktas for £8 million.  Samuel Eto’o has also left the Blues on a free transfer after finishing his one year at the club.  Speculations continue to surround those forwards who could still make their way to West London before the start of the season.

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Match Made in Heaven: José Mourinho and Didier Drogba formed a close bond during Mourinho’s first tenure at Stamford Bridge. [Getty]

Topping the list is former Chelsea talisman Didier Drogba who, since his last kick in Chelsea colors won them the Champions League, has been plying his trade in Turkey for Galatasaray and formerly in China for Shanghai Shenhua.  Chelsea faced off against Galatasaray in this past season’s Champions League knockout stages, dispatching their Turkish counterparts with relative ease.  Drogba may be 36, but his quality and experience is undeniable.  Of the ten finals in which he has participated, Didier has scored in and won each of them, and Mourinho is surely keen to bring a player of his stature back to the Bridge.  His role could very well be similar to that of a player-coach, with the opportunity to remain with the club as a member of the coaching staff in the future.  He could also provide the necessary guidance that Mourinho feels Romelu Lukaku needs in order for the Belgian to be a first team starter for Chelsea.  Lukaku has spent the last two seasons out on loan, impressing for West Bromwich Albion and, most recently, Everton, and Everton manager Roberto Martinez is very interested in bringing him back to the Merseyside club.  Abramovich has recognized the demand for Lukaku and would be willing to cash in on him for offers around 40 million.

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Shoes to Fill: Mourinho instructs substitute Romelu Lukaku during Chelsea’s preseason last year. José has said he wishes to see Lukaku succeed, but reports suggest that there may not be a place for him at Stamford Bridge again this season. [Getty]

In a recent interview with BT Sport, Mourinho stated that Chelsea had finished their business in the window as of July 19th, despite the window being open until the 31st of August.  However, rumors continue to circle concerning Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira, a reported target for Arsenal.  Khedira only has one year remaining on his contract at Real Madrid, and rather than lose him on a free transfer, the Champions League winners will surely look to sell him to the right bidder.  Reports as recent as this past weekend were suggesting that a deal with the Gunners was all but completed, but issues with player wages have slowed negotiations.  The German midfielder is alleged to be demanding upwards of £175,000 per week, and Arsenal are apparently not willing to so drastically restructure their wage budget for one player, no matter how good.  The Gunners recently purchased dangerous Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez, and getting another big signing on the books is proving challenging.

Other players who continue to be rumored as Chelsea targets include AS Roma’s centre-back Mehdi Benatia, Juventus’ dynamic midfielder Paul Pogba, Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane, Paris Saint Germain’s striker Edinson Cavani and Atletico Madrid centre-back Joao Miranda.  Chelsea only recently declared their interest in Benatia while Miranda and Varane have been Chelsea targets since the middle of last season.  All three would be at least £20 million with Varane being the most expensive and least likely to sign.  Considering Chelsea left back Ashley Cole recently joined the Roman club, AS Roma may be more cooperative than the others, but after all the business the Blues have conducted with Atletico, the Miranda deal may prove less challenging.

As for Pogba, Juventus has repeatedly stated their desire to keep the Frenchman.  Still, with rumors suggesting that Chelsea would be willing to splash out a figure in the region of £75 million for his services, it would be hard to assume that the Serie A title winners would say no.  The Blues would need to offload longstanding fringe player John Obi Mikel, who has had offers from Inter Milan.  Buoyed by Nemanja Matic’s availability in all competitions and Fabregas’ versatility as a box-to-box midfielder, Chelsea would welcome the right offer for the Nigerian holding midfielder.  Pressure from Manchester United to purchase Juventus’ standout midfield general Arturo Vidal may force the Italian giants to make a decision on him or Pogba, and the highest offer will likely be the deciding factor in either deal.  Chelsea may also be keen to maintain their interest as a double-edged sword – if their bid is accepted, they get a world class player, while bidding high may force Juventus to consider their offer more strongly than any made by United.

As has been the story since he was still a Napoli player, the Blues are similarly engaged in the pursuit of Edinson Cavani but their interest seems to be less than Manchester United’s and Liverpool’s.  Still, putting an offer on the table will only make it more difficult for either club to seal the deal with the Uruguayan.  Similar posturing has been done in the recent  past, and Mourinho is no stranger to it.

Whether or not Mourinho had indeed finalized his transfer dealings by the 19th of July, as he stated in his interview with BT Sport, Chelsea’s involvement in the transfer market will likely continue well into the finals days of the window.


[Note: Many rumors discussed in the last few weeks will not come to fruition (they’re rumors, after all), but be sure to check back for another update come the end of July/early August.]

Amadi Thiam

Senegalese-American journalism student. Fan of political science & international relations. Strong passion for writing about and playing the beautiful game. Bilingual. Recovering Drogbaholic. Licensed Youth Coach. I call it football, futbol and soccer. Follow me on twitter: @amadoit Find me on Soccerly at More of my writings:

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