Several news outlets have been running with the story that Chelsea have had scouts watching Malaga forward Salomon Rondon recently. Considering that Rondon has been playing for his national team in South American World Cup qualifying, I'd almost be more surprised if Chelsea didn't have scouts in attendance at any of his games. That said, Rondon is certainly an interesting player that would both fill a need and make the Chelsea squad younger. As many of the rumors of late are completely laughable, we'll take a look at a player that actually makes some sense.
First and foremost, Rondon is a 22 year old Venezuelan who will be turning 23 in September. He's currently plying his trade at La Liga club Malaga, and he's been a regular in the Venezuelan national for the last several years. This fact will be a huge plus in any pursuit of Rondon, as he'll likely qualify automatically for a work permit in England due to his international caps. He's got a solid scoring record for Malaga, finding the back of the net 27 times in 72 appearances for the club. When taking his age and the league in which he plays into consideration, that's a pretty fantastic scoring record.
From a physical standpoint, it's not hard to see why Rondon would interest a club like Chelsea. He stands 6'2" tall with a muscular build, drawing inevitable comparisons to outgoing legend Didier Drogba. He's probably just as strong as the Ivorian, but probably faster and a better leaper as well. Rondon has the physical tools to be a complete center forward, able to hold the ball up, provide a target, and outrun defenders into space. He's also a pretty tremendous worker for a big man, something that is pretty rarely the case with bigger center forwards. He's certainly got the tools to be a Drogba like presence if everything was to come together.
This season saw Rondon develop into a more Drogba-like presence technically as well. He's commented to the media about his vast improvement in his hold up play, heading, and positioning while defending set pieces. Having seen very little of him prior to this season, I'm not sure what I'm comparing this season with. I will say, though, that he's fairly solid in all of these regards from what I've seen this year. He's not Drogba, but in terms of style it's a good comparison.
The downside with Rondon is that he's still quite raw. He'll have his games where he can absolutely dominate a defense by himself, but then he'll have 2 where he's absolutely invisible. He's show flashes of a fantastic first touch and tremendous finishing, but at this point it's still hit or miss whether those attributes will be present on any given day. His aerial finishing is far more consistent, but that's largely reliant on service. On days when he's not on and his service is poor, you might think his team was playing with 10 men. That said, he's about the same age as Daniel Sturridge, so his inconsistency in a top league is not something that's entirely unexpected.
Anyway, for those who've never seen him I've got a video for you. This one is long, and it's a pretty typical highlight reel type video. It will at least give you an idea what he brings to the table at his best though:
Rumor has it that Malaga values Rondon in the vicinity of £20 million, and frankly that's not all that unreasonable. There are also some reports that would indicate Rondon has a buyout clause of €20 million, although I can't find a source I trust which would confirm this. Assuming there is no buyout, Malaga has money to pay him and the Champions League to offer, so it's certainly reasonable to think it would take a substantial offer to tempt them to sell.
At the same time, Malaga have very little in the way of domestic or advertising revenue, and if FFP is a concern for them it's certainly not unthinkable that they'd cash in on a somewhat inconsistent asset. Rondon has only 2 seasons left on his Malaga deal, so there is the possibility that Malaga will decide to part ways with Rondon if he's hesitant to renew and the money is right. While Rondon has everything necessary to develop into a world class player, he's certainly not there yet and by no means untouchable for the right price.
Rondon's agent is also something that would seem to indicate a potential move to Chelsea could be possible. Rondon is represented by Juan Mata Sr., the father and agent of our own Juan Mata. While that certainly doesn't indicate he'd be pushing for Chelsea specifically, he's clearly got a working relationship with the club already and an idea of what they can offer his client.
Rondon is one of those guys I tend to like, a young physically gifted player that still needs some technical refinement. There's always risk when targeting these types of players, but there's also the chance of a substantial payoff should everything go Chelsea's way. Risk aside though, Rondon would be an adequate backup for Chelsea already that would allow us to send Romelu Lukaku out on loan to develop. He'd give us a very different player than Daniel Sturridge or Fernando Torres in the center of the pitch, and he's got the talent to supplant Torres as the starter if he gets into a good run of form. Price is obviously a factor here, but his age and talent would seem to be perfect fits for the current Chelsea squad. What do you all think?