We've done it once before (we all remember it like it was yesterday) unfortunately it wasn't and while we've improved a bit sort of, kind of, maybe... (Oscar, Hazard, Azpilicueta but lost Drogba, Kalou, Essien, ended up in the Europa League and managed to win it against Benfica) they gone to an entirely new level (Shaqiri, Martinez, Mandzukic, Pep Guardiola, a 4-0 and a 3-0 thrashing of the old paragon and now apparently Mario Goezte and possibly Sebastian Rode, Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez and more). The centre of gravity in European football, which was most definitely in England a few years ago, and subsequently moved to Spain and particularly Catalonia, is on the move again - this time to Germany - and Bavaria in particular. It is clear that Michael Emenalo has been spending too much time in Catalonia, he should pack his bags and head for Bavaria pronto.
We're not in a position to challenge Bayern (the current Bayern that is as well as the likely Pep led Uber-Bayern of next season) just yet; but I believe that with some careful considerations around academy and player development, transfers (and crucially squad size/balance/design), management and a bit of luck we could be ready to usurp Europe's new kings in two or three seasons. Man City, PSG, Real Madrid, Monaco and Anzhi Makhachkala will undoubtedly crave sooner successes on the European stage - I think they will find it hard against a likely turbo-charged Bayern, a weakened but still impressive Dortmund and an improving Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen. Juventus, Man Utd and Barcelona represent teams who can afford to bide their time in order to take on the German challenge. Chelsea I feel sits uncomfortably between these two groups today; we have an owner who is very much in the first category but a structure geared far more towards the second.
Our first opportunity to face this new German juggernaut could come quite soon, if we're successful in the Europa League and Bayern goes on to win the Champions League, the 2013 Super Cup will be a replay of the 2012 UCL final...and at this stage I really don't like our chances of lifting the Super Cup aloft for the 1st time.
How did they get so much better than us?
Let's consider for a moment this important question. Chelsea should (rightly I would say) permanently feature in the Champions League semi-finals - we made them comfortably several years in a row (2004-05 and 2007-09), we made the final in 2008 and but for a slip would have won, and but for the referee would have been in the final again in 2009. Our team stood astride the world; huge names Drogba, Terry, Lampard, Essien, Makelele, Carvalho, Cech, Robben, Ballack, Deco, Cole and Shevchenko all made their presence known and thanks to the largesse of our benevolent benefactor we always could add to their ranks. 2010 could be written off as a blip on the radar, as might 2006, in 2010's case even more so as it was against the man who knew us better than any other, the Special One, and as we won the league it didn't matter as much. 2011 was wrought with crisis, but even then we went down to the eventual beaten finalists Man U. 2012 didn't look like it was going to be our year either, until Roberto di Matteo took over and steered us to a historic win.
Bayern did not make the semi-finals between 2002 and 2009, then after a long absence from the top of European football they were beaten by Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the 2010 final, their return stalled in 2011, before they were again bested in the final - by our boys. They are now on track I would argue to go one better in 2013.
I don't subscribe to the theory that we were lucky to win last May, we came with a plan executed to perfection and beat Bayern on the home soil, which was a huge achievement, particularly when you consider the personnel we were missing. But while we had the best team on the park (and that ultimately is always going to be what matters most), we did not have the best team on paper. That is a bit surprising, because throughout our many failures to win the Champions League (2004-2011) we almost always I would argue, when we eventually succumb to a better team on the night (not in 2008 or 2009 mind) had the better team on paper. This has been a bit of a concerning development that has been going on for a while, not quickly, but gradually our near omnipotence has been challenged, degraded and ultimately lost. There are many reasons for this but I think four are key; academy and player development, transfers, management and luck - in some cases we had the winning formula and have lost it and in other cases we never had it (but it didn't matter because nobody else did either) but now they do. Bayern has three well sorted now, they can't control luck, but if they get it, then they will win and keep on winning.
Gegenpressing - replacing Tiki-taka
Bayern and Dortmund have successfully dominated and controlled games using a high-tempo, high pressing game, a tactic referred to as 'gegenpressing'.
Gegenpressing, involves highly-organised pressing, both with and without the ball, and lightning counter-attacks to penetrate and punish the opposition. Bayern Munich's Champions League semi-final demolition of Barcelona was a footballing masterclass. An absolute tactical triumph. Barcelona were outplayed by a powerful Bayern side whose pre-match preparation was so thorough they seemed to go into the game knowing the answer to every question the Catalan side could pose.
Bayern made Barcelona's tiki-taka style look tired. Over both legs of the tie we saw a contest between Barça's one trick pony and Bayern's many trick pony. The Catalans' over-reliance on Messi's genius over the past few years and an obvious lack of top quality cover in key positions increased their vulnerability. Now, many have begun to predict the death of tiki-taka and the dominance at club and international level of highly-organised, co-ordinated defensive and attacking units.
In the Champions League, Barcelona's tiki-taka style had been countered by some highly-organised, technically sophisticated teams employing a combination of ultra-defence and explosive counter-attacking. These teams, including Inter Milan, Chelsea and AC Milan continuously pressed and harried Barça instead of seeking to dominate possession of the ball.
There is little doubt that the performances of these teams and also of Real Madrid in La Liga demonstrate that, without sufficient space to manoeuvre and thread intricate, incisive passes, tiki-taka can be ineffective. When pressed in a highly organised way with defenders, midfielders and forwards all working tirelessly in a co-ordinated manner, the space for the Barça players Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Iniesta and Messi to pass and move can be so restricted that they end up passing the ball sideways and to little effect.
In the Champions League this season, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and also Juventus, have demonstrated a tirelessly energetic, co-ordinated approach to pressing teams. This has helped them to regain possession as well as restricting space for their opponents to pass and move. Watching these teams defend and attack so cohesively demonstrates the style's effectiveness.
MANAGEMENT - What's happened to our ruthlessness?
The return of the Special One will immediately lessen this as an issue, but not necessarily solve it 100%. To do that we really need to bring a win at all costs attitude to the entirety of our staff; we should perhaps adopt another clubs motto - ‘Nobody likes us; and we don't care'!
TRANSFERS - Too small, too slow, not enough stamina, not enough bodies, the virtues of balance, competition and versatility, not enough defenders, not enough strikers, not enough ‘distributive' midfielders, not enough risk...
It's understandable why we've become risk averse in our transfer considerations; one only need look at Fernando Torres to see why. Taking risks in the transfer window is important however, there is no such thing as a ‘safe buy', all transfers carry risks, we have to be willing to take them.
We now have a crop of extremely talented young attacking players, this is an excellent development, however at the same time this crop of talent has been developed, we have lost our muscle edge, to use one term ‘the bullies have become the bullied'. We have offloaded a series of big enforcers all across the park; Ricardo Carvalho in defence, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, Raul Meireles in midfield, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou up front. While we do still have a few strong lads Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Jon Obi Mikel; they're either at the end of their illustrious careers (Terry, Lampard) or less play largely in defence (Cahill, Mikel, Ivanovic). We are suffering at the moment from the move from one extreme to another, from having an old squad a few seasons ago, to having a young squad today, in both these cases, we've lacked balance. Bayern have a mix of big and small men across the park, though they tend more to the bigger more physical end in most regards, but they also most definitely have a balanced squad. We also have issues with both speed and stamina, which given the relative youth of our squad is something of a surprising issue.
Goalkeepers - Thibault Courtois is Petr Cech's successor (quite possibly quite a bit sooner than many might have thought too), but I doubt it will be in the 2013-14 Season, though that may be the Czech star's swansong. Jamal Blackman and Matej Delac could step into the Hilário/Turnbull role, though I think it's unlikely either will, we do not want to hinder their development; reserve keeper is such a difficult role in a team, it's one you really want to give to promising youngsters. Ideally you want an ageing star, unfortunately such options seem a bit thin on the ground at present. The teams, and in particular our rivals going down, Queens Park Rangers have the perfect man for the job, Julio Cesar (33). Alternatively we could look at the (also likely to go down) Wigan and Omani star Ali Al Habsi (31). Another quite good option could be to bring big Scotsman Allan McGregor back from Turkey.
The alternative is to pick a young player at a big club with plenty of keepers in front of them whose chances are very limited there - we can't offer many more options to them, but a few games for a club like Chelsea might help them on their next move. I think I've spied a good option for this role; Alphonse Aréola from PSG, he's behind Nicolas Douchez and Salvatore Sirigu so he's unlikely to see too much game time and has 17 year old star Mike Maignan from French Guiana breathing down his neck - but he's still a France U20 representative star and could potentially provide some competition for Courtois/Blackman/Delac/Beeney/Killip/Collins in the future. Young Bayern Munich keeper Leopold Zingerle (18) is in a similar boat.
There have been additional names thrown into the discussion around a new reserve keeper recently; Asmir Begovic and Alex McCarthy, both of whom are strong candidates for the role. McCarthy in particular would be a good fit, Begovic is likely to be bid for by a number of large clubs (Liverpool, Arsenal, Man U are all said to hold some interest in him), McCarthy could likely be bought relatively cheaply. Alternatively we could continue on the Alphonse Aréola/Leopold Zingerle theme and look at young keepers locked out of opportunities at their (major European) clubs; Stuttgart's young German-Greek star Odisseas Vlachodimos (18) he's behind Manuel Neuer, Bernd Leno, Timo Horn and Marc-Andre ter-Stegen for Germany long term, but is the current Germany U19 No.1, and with Sven Ulreich in front of him at Stuttgart and Kenan Mujezinovic and Marius Funk coming through behind him he may be quite receptive to a Chelsea move. Young Le Mans keeper Quentin Beunardeau (18) and AZ keeper Hobie Verhulst are in similar situations. Other good options are young Austrian and Werder Bremen star Richard Strebinger, Slovenia and Rio Ave star Jan Oblak.
I'd like to get Jamal Blackman some loan experience in the Championship/League One so a new keeper would also be needed for the U21's - there are a few good options; Wolverhampton U21 and Slovenia U19 keeper Aljaz Cotman (18), Aston Villa U21 and Scotland U19's Calum Barrett, Tottenham U21's Anglo-Chilean star Lawrence Vigouroux and SouthamptonU21 and Northern Ireland U19 Chris Johns - I'd go with Lawrence Vigouroux after his wonderful performance in a recent penalty shoot out in the Next Gen Series.
Business - (Dream Business) - So who do we sign; the best choice is undoubtedly signing Julio Cesar to be No.3 to Courtois in the 2014-15 season (loaned to Malaga for the 2013-14 season, Courtois loaned to Everton, West Brom or possibly Arsenal in 2013-14), Alphonse Aréola or Odisseas Vlachodimos (can't split them - unless PSG wants to be difficult, then we'd just go for Vlachodimos) as No.2 to Cech in 2013-14 and Courtois in 2014-15 and Lawrence Vigouroux for the youth set up, with Jamal Blackman and Matej Delac going back on loan again. Obviously this will not happen, Julio Cesar wants playing time before the World Cup and we won't be signing three keepers, probably not more than one, if it is to be only one keeper, it should be either Alphonse Aréola or Odisseas Vlachodimos.
Business - (Realistic) - Alex McCarthy and Lawrence Vigouroux; Courtois, Blackman and Delac going on loan again.
Defenders - Among the youth ranks in central defence we have - Jeffrey Bruma, Tomas Kalas, Andreas Christensen, Jordan Houghton, Nathan Aké, Fankarty Dabo, Danny Pappoe, George Brady, Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba, Archange Nkumu, Kyle Scott, Jay Dasilva, Ali Suljic and Alex Davey - and that's excluding Chalobah who for now I'll add to the David Luiz CB/DM list (containing at this point David Luiz and Nathaniel Chalobah). (Now I'm not for a moment suggesting that all these lads will make it at Chelsea, even if they had the ability to do so there are simply too many of them.)
There are issues (but also promise with) Jeffrey Bruma, he's coming back from Hamburg, where only sometimes employed in his regular CB role. Bruma mainly worked as a DM at Hamburg, along with Milan Badelj and Tomás Rincón, his role here has been even more important given Petr Jiracek recent injury woes. This means he's a value add player of course, but probably means we should move him out of the dedicated CB category and into the same category as David Luiz (no issue there). Nathan Aké may also be in this position, though again this is not necessarily a bad thing. Issues with Hamburg recently have seen him sent back to Chelsea, this does not bode well for his future Chelsea career and I would suspect it may in fact point to him having a limited future, which is being backed up by apparent moves to sell him. I'm not 100% in accordance with this idea, he's similar to Michael Mancienne and at other clubs would be kept but not play much, that's probably not really an option for us, so bye bye Jeffrey Bruma. PS. I prefer the idea of sending him to PSV, hopefully with a clause in the contract that secures us first option on Zakaria Bakkali, Tristan Berghuis and Hjörtur Hermannsson.
Tomas Kalas has been playing a lot at RB, this really presents another issue itself, with Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Wallace, Todd Kane, Kenneth Omeruo and Joshua Debayo Temitayo-Olaoluwe Aina [Josh Aina]. I struggle to see any real need for any right backs (again not all of them will necessarily make it but I like what I'm seeing from Josh Aina and Todd Kane and there are big wraps on Wallace). Kalas seems the logical choice if we sell Bruma. With Ivanovic still around, Azpilicueta coming on well, Wallace, Todd Kane and Josh Aina, I think we can safely get rid of Nortei Nortey and Samuel Bangura, which is what has occurred, they have been released to find other clubs. Roma's interest in Wallace (ideally they'd like to sign him permanently, we're likely to just offer a loan) could see interest in a few Roma players spike; particularly in star Brazilian defender Marquinhos. Earlier links with Tottenham star Kyle Walker can probably be pretty safely ruled out, Spurs have learned not to sell to league rivals and with all the options we've got already we couldn't give him guarantees about playing time. One player I would consider adding to the right to replace Nortey/Bangura; Real Madrid youth star Francisco José Rodríguez, who could come across as part of Jose Mourinho's welcome home crew.
I will add two caveats to my previous consideration of the right back/wingback position, whilst Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Wallace, Kane, Omeruo, Kalas and Aina means we have a very strong right defensive side, I would not argue that it's improvement-less. There are two possible improvements one could make to the right side defence, signing a warhorse like Juventus' Stephan Lichsteiner (linked recently with PSG, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid); this would allow Ivanovic to play permanently in a central role and would allow us to loan out Wallace, Kane, Omeruo, Kalas and Aina again, as we'd have plenty of cover with Lichsteiner, Azpilicueta and Ivanovic. Alternatively, Lichsteiner could be used as a rock at right back, allowing us to employ Azpilicueta and Wallace as right wingers, and freeing Kalas, Omerou and Ivanovic of right side responsibilities to focus on central defence. The 2nd caveat essentially replicates this option, but going for youth instead of experience (Lichsteiner). In this case, Serge Aurier and Mario Fernandes are the two key options, with Azpilicueta and Ivanovic staying back to allow Aurier/Fernandes to be unleashed down the right side.
Business - (Dream Business) - If we were to get some signings I'd like Francisco José Rodríguez for the youth team and Stephan Lichsteiner for the senior team. This would allow Lichsteiner to be used at right back, Azpilicueta as a right back or wingers, Ivanovic can focus on central defence, and would allow us to loan out Wallace, Kane, Omeruo, Kalas and Aina again. Serge Aurier and Mario Fernandes would both in some ways be better options than Lichsteiner, but Aurier's signing might cause issues with Azpilicueta, Wallace and co, as might Mario Fernandes and though he's a still better player, he seems to have quite a few off-field issues, given that we're unlikely to sign anyone it's probably not an issue.
Business - (Realistic) - More likely than not, none, though I could potentially see an argument for signing Aleksandar Dragović, who can play effectively anywhere across the back four.
On the left, We've currently got Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand, Patrick van Anholt, Aziz Deen-Conteh and George Saville (who can also play as a defensive mid) on the left, (and 40% of Ronan at Fluminense), we'll only need a new player should Cole move, or if Bertrand continues to be used further up field, I have concerns about whether van Anholt, Deen-Conteh and Saville are going to make the grade - undoubtedly all fine young players, van Anholt in particular we should be confident in, while Deen-Conteh and Saville have both been solid if unspectacular recently, while Adam Nditi has shown himself reasonably proficient playing at left back as well as left mid, behind Cole, Bertrand and potentially van Anholt we're looking a bit thin.
Age is also an issue, currently Cole is 31, Bertrand is 23 and the rest of the cohort; van Anholt, Deen-Conteh, Saville, Nditi and Ronan are younger still (22, 19, 19, 19 and 17 respectively), there's a big age gap there (particularly as Bertrand only fairly recently turned 23). If Cole was to take the one year on offer and then leave at the end of the 2013-14 season, he'd be 33, with two years, assuming he saw out his contract he'd be 34, certainly getting up in years. If we need a new player it should be David Alaba (I recognise this will be very, very hard as he's a super important player at Bayern, but we have to give it a go he adds both the skills and versatility we are really crying out for and he's the best ‘next Ashley Cole' out there, definitely superior to Luke Shaw). If we can't get him it should be Luke Shaw, with Senad Lulic from Lazio as an interim solution, known as 'The Train' for his hard running he'd be ideal, if not entirely of the right age.
In the youth ranks we should look at Real Madrid Castilla's Juan José Manresa and Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz, Barca's Alejandro Grimaldo, Lille's Lucas Digne, Manchester City's Ashley Smith-Brown (nicked Frédéric Veseli style from our Northern rivals), or we could try a similar trick with Arsenal young gun Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (double barreled surnames seem popular among young left backs).
There is scope to essentially replicate my plan for the right side (Azpilicueta/Ivanovic being used to potentially unleash Aurier/Fernandes or Lichsteiner doing the same but for Azpilicueta). On left we've already got Bertrand and van Anholt who are fairly aggressive going forward, as is Luke Shaw and Alaba/Lulic. A more defensive option might be Wolfsburg's Swiss international defender Ricardo Rodriguez or Newcastle United's talented young Frenchman, Massadio Haïdara. There is speculation that Mourinho may look to bring in Fabio Coentrao from Real Madrid as well.
Business - (Dream Business) - Ideally I'd have Alaba and sign and loan out Luke Shaw and sign Alejandro Grimaldo from Barca, though I realise that our chances of landing Alaba are extremely slim to none. Senad Lulic and one of the Real Madrid youth stars Juan José Manresa and Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz. Shaw will be more than adequate in the real world.
Business - (Realistic) - Probably Luke Shaw and that's probably it, save if Mou wants to bring in Fabio Coentrao or we give a full contract to Ronan.
Andreas Christensen looks like he'll be a good solid CB, while Jordan Houghton seems reasonable as well, though his youth representative England career may stalling, Alex Davey probably falls somewhere between those two. I have less confidence in Fankarty Dabo, though both may prove me wrong, Danny Pappoe probably hasn't played enough to really say much (same situation with Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba) which in many ways says a lot. Archage Nkumu will depart in the summer as a free agent. George Brady is too young to say too much about at this stage but he does come with great expectations about his abilities. These lads are not options at the moment, but if we sign a new CB we need to consider them in light of the impact that it may have on their fledgling careers.
Being brutal on that basis we have John Terry (32, getting on), David Luiz (26, who can also play LB and DM, potentially CM and RB as well),Gary Cahill (27), Branislav Ivanovic (28, RB and sometime CB) - plus - Andreas Christensen (16), Jeffrey Bruma (21, DM and sometime CB), Nathan Aké (17, DM and sometime CB) and Nathaniel Chalobah (18, DM and sometime CB, and for Watford sometime attacking mid); not enough, and while it does display we have a lot of young and versatile lads doing the rounds - we are perhaps lacking specialist CBs; now perhaps only Terry, Cahill and Christensen.
There is also an alternative argument - one that considers us a CB short as it stands now, loosing Ferreira would therefore put us two short. Venturing into the market for one (or two) new CB's wouldn't be a huge issue; there are plenty of capable options out there, but relatively few truly world and Chelsea class ones. Seeking out some fresh legs might also be a good idea when it is considered that John Terry is getting on and getting injured more often of late; Branislav Ivanovic is no spring chicken either, though he's younger and fitter than JT.
Mats Hummels (24) and Nicolas N'Koulou (22), are both superb young CB's, I'm a particular fan of Hummels, I think he has all the qualities we're looking for a in a central defender. Unfortunately we're not alone in our admiration of either of these lads, while I think we'd be a decent show of signing N'Koulou, given competition from Man Utd, Man City, Barcelona and undoubtedly PSG (and perhaps Real Madrid as well) we need to consider options beyond our first option. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (23), could be a Winter 2014 target if all goes well at Newcastle (we could also wait the same period to nab left back Massadio Haïdara and box-to-box midfielder Moussa Sissoko); it really depends on whether we feel we need a new CB in the Summer or next January.
Recently (according to the paper talk at least) we've been following Stefan de Vrij (20), he has the makings of an impressive option but he's not ready to be playing at the level of a Hummels/Yanga-Mbiwa. Similarly Chilean-Polish starlet Igor Lichinovsky (18) and Slovenian stars Emir Dautović (17) and Damjan Vuklisevic (17) have been a targets for some time now, but again they're still kids, learning the game. I'm a big fan of Lichinovsky and Dautovic - both of whom the club has been following for some time now. Though both would make valuable additions - neither is at a point in their respective careers to replace Ferreira or take some of the burden off JT/Luiz/Cahill. There also been a bit of paper talk about a possible deal for 21 year old Greece and Schalke defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, personally I'd prefer Höwedes of Schalke's CB's, he's not that much older and is also a potential future leader in my opinion, having said that Papadopoulos is also highly sought after, Man City have apparently also been in contact with Schalke about him (but the man we really want from Schalke is probably neither of them; it's Julian Draxler - though neither Papadopoulos or Höwedes would be far behind and we should also have an eye on Max Meyer, Kaan Ayhan, Tim Bodenröder, Donis Avdijaj, Thilo Kehrer, Hendrik Lohmar, Felix Platte, Patryk Dragon, Oguzhan Aydogan and Maurice Multaup).
There's plenty of other good options out there; Benedikt Höwedes, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Andrea Ranocchia, Neven Subotic, Matthias Ginter, Lasse Sobiech, Philipp Wollscheid, Samuel Umtiti, Marquinhos, Dedé, Ezequiel Garay, and Aleksandar Dragović. Attacking Japanese centre back and recent Man Utd target Hideto Takahashi might also be a good addition, he's a pretty good player and would be no weight to carry (probably wouldn't line him up in a Champions League semi-final though) and would really help our merchandising in Asia. For the same reason we should keep a watchful eye on QPR's new signing Yun Suk-Young, particularly as they're relegation bound he may be picked up really cheap.
Sticking with internal recruitment and instead signing some additional youth players to replace those being promoted is the third option. Jonathan Tah (16) a Germany U17 international, is considered one of the brightest prospects in the Bundesliga and is being scouted by Man U he'd make a good addition. Germany U18 international Niklas Süle represents another promising option. Kurt Zouma (18) from Saint Etienne and also a France U19 international could be another strong option. Younger but also impressive is 16 year old Ajax defender Riechedly Bazoer, who has attracted the interest of Man City. Mourinho could also look at bringing 19 year-old France and Real Madrid defender Raphaël Varane (there is also talk that Pepe could be brought across from Real Madrid with Mou, personally I'd prefer Varane to Pepe - I really don't see Pepe at Chelsea). Jose also likes the look of Porto's star young centre back Frenchman Eliaquim Mangala, but we all know Porto can be a serious headache to deal with on the transfer market (though probably no more so than Real Madrid would be if we went after Raphaël Varane).
Finally, we could look at Standard Leige's Dino Arslanagic and Corentin Fiore, Newcastle United's Remie Streete, Athletic Bilbao's Aymeric Laporte, Real Sociedad's Iñigo Martínez, Ajax's other young defensive prodigy Stefano Denswil and Sporting Lisbon and England U19 star Eric Dier.
Looking to Bayern Munich itself, they have a few CBs too many by all accounts, the Dante revelation and the addition of Jan Kirchhoff next season will add to Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng - should Bayern also add another defender, which is not out of the question, there has been quite a lot of transfer talk about Badstuber, linking him with clubs of equivalent levels to Bayern as well as mid-table Bundesliga clubs (where presumably he'd be guaranteed playing time).
Business - (Dream Business) - that's pretty easy; Mats Hummels and Raphaël Varane signed and put straight into the squad and Igor Lichinovsky, Aymeric Laporte and either Eric Dier, Remie Streete or Jonathan Tah signed and loaned out.
OUT - John Terry and Jeffrey Bruma, heaps of lads on loan
Business - (Realistic) - Eliaquim Mangala and one youth CB.
OUT - Bruma, several lads out on loan.
Midfield - I thought we were a bit underdone with Michael Essien, Raul Meireles, Oriol Romeu, Josh MacEachran, Ramires and Jon Obi Mikel - Romeu's out for 6 months, Essien's gone(-ish), Meireles (gone) and MacEachran (somewhat indisposed at present in the North). While we still have Frank Lampard (for now at least), Paulo Ferreira (again, but not for much longer), Ryan Bertrand (a wingback), David Luiz (great) and perhaps Marko Marin (small, and with a future in doubt), we're really lacking in the central/defensive midfield area - and in deep trouble because of it. We need midfielders almost as badly as we need striker(s).
I don't know what to do about the Bison, Michael Essien has been pretty good when he's played for Real Madrid, but in Spain, much like in England he's had a problem with injuries, and each time he bounces back from a major injury, he's just that little bit less the Bison of old. I'd personally love to have him back, he's a club great and would still be useful to have, but bringing the Bison back should not interfere with the signing of further (younger) players to strengthen that part of the park. We let Claude Makélelé go at the right time, he is still remembered today as a legend at the club, virtually defining the role of the modern defensive midfielder, perhaps it's time we afforded the Bison the same courtesy. However it appears likely now that Mourinho's return will also include the Bison's however, his time is not quite done yet, but that shouldn't prevent new midfield signings from being added, but personally I'll be glad to have the Bison back!
The situation with our defensive/central midfield quandary would probably right itself naturally eventually, there are heaps of central midfielders in the youth ranks; Lamisha Musonda, Tika Musonda, John Swift, Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Victorien Angban, Anjur Osmanovic and Isak Ssewankambo, Billy Clifford, and Danny Stenning but no real defensive mids, save perhaps for Chalobah, Aké and Bruma playing in their secondary role (well debatable for Chalobah as to whether this is his primary or secondary role, but anyway).
Again, considering them individually, first the Musonda's, I know Tika and Lamisha were only really bought to ensure we landed younger brother Charly, but they're not bad players, Lamisha represented Belgium U21 in October for the fifth time (remembering that getting in a Belgian youth team is not easy at the moment, they have a lot of good players coming through the ranks - indeed there are some others who I'd be quite keen to add to the squad as well), whilst Tika has over 20 caps at different age levels for Belgium, do they have a great Chelsea future...maybe it's hard to say at this point, but both of the older Musonda brothers definitely deserve more of a chance than they're getting at present, and I expect that if Charly continues his current developmental trajectory he'll be a very fine asset. I would like to see them take advantage of some loans next season, to a team like Vitesse or if possible Malaga, I think that would help their development quite a lot and might give us some indication of whether they'll be at Chelsea long term. If they stay with the youth team, they definitely deserve more playing time than they got this season.
I'm a big John Swift fan, he's current England U18 captain and I can see him perhaps captaining Chelsea one day (as others have noted Nathaniel Chalobah as well but I digress). Baker and Loftus-Cheek are both more attacking players but do occasionally play more of a pivot type role, I expect big things from both of them...probably not in this role though. Along with MacEachran (first of them through), Chalobah, Swift, Baker and Loftus-Cheek represent the great English hope at Chelsea, that we can build a world class spine for the team out of domestic players - it's still unclear how close this dream is to realisation, but I'd undoubtedly like to see the 5 Cobham lads given every chance.
Victorien Angban is another one to watch, though again probably more of an attacking midfielder than a central/defensive one. The two Swedes, Anjur Osmanovic and Isak Ssewankambo are interesting both show promise but behind the existing English prospects (MacEachran, Chalobah, Swift, Baker, Loftus-Cheek) and Angban plus a not too old Romeu, Ramires and Mikel (and hopefully at least one more CM/DM signed and arriving soon) I struggle to see them cracking the 1st team (though again they could surprise, particularly Ssewankambo, he's the best chance of this lesser group to make it in my opinion). Billy Clifford I don't see too many chances for or for that matter George Cole. Ruben Sammut and Jesse Starkey are unknown quantities at this point.
Just on Defensive Midfielders read these articles, they really exposure the necessity of having plenty of good ones...Defensive Midfielders essential for success; http://footballspeak.com/...07/31/Essential-For-Success.aspx Before I go on, an interesting article about defensive midfielders (well another one), I particularly like ‘the defensive midfield position evolved, incorporating both ‘destroyers' and ‘registas' or deep-lying playmakers.
A strong, modern regista requires many of the attributes previously described for a good libero: some defensive awareness, good reading of the game, a large range of passing and the ability to dictate play; http://www.sabotagetimes.com/...e-rise-of-the-modern-libero/ So who can fix this issue...
First off - I like the idea of considering guys who compliment Romeu - he's the lad we already have here for the future (along with MacEachran and Luiz, Bruma, Aké, Chalobah part time - and Mikel he's still only 25). So we're after ball winners - destroyers, preferably of a physically imposing stature and young (-ish). So who can fix this issue...well there are a range of options - Moussa Sissoko; now at Newcastle so he won't be available until January 2014, but that may actually be a good thing for us - he can mature and adapt to the league before moving to Chelsea ala Demba Ba. Etienne Capoue; (still for the moment at least at Toulouse). Both Tolouse lads (one former now but anyway) I'm a big fan of, big, strong, fast, both have a good stamina, though Sissoko probably wins in that department, both are good on the ball, though Capoue probably wins in that department.
Part of Toulouse's success so far this season has been the attacking capabilities that both players have demonstrated, everyone knew Sissoko was tireless, he's now also shown quite an impressive running game, particularly in wide areas, while Capoue should now really be considered a goal scoring defensive midfielder (as should Sissoko after the game at Newcastle this weekend). Both players are probably better described as box-to-box midfielder in the Yaya Toure mould. They have the muscle to replicate Lampard's defensive performances, but greater stamina, and they have shown that they possess the necessary attacking prowess to be a real asset in midfield. They'd certainly add the requisite muscle and they'd also be good at getting the ball going forward and could handle the high intensity of playing in the Premier League (as Sissoko showed when we played in Newcastle, we didn't sign him last window because why...?).
Two young French defensive midfielders, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Adrien Rabiot-Provost of Sevilla and PSG respectively also deserve quite a degree of attention. Both are hugely talented youngsters with an abundance of potential. Kondogbia is getting huge wraps at the moment with man City apparently viewing him as a future Yaya Toure replacement, I think the bigger talent of the pair is Rabiot-Provost he's got a Fellaini-esque ability and I think it would be a massive coupe to land him.
There are plenty of others apart from Sissoko, Capoue and the two Benders who are worthy of wearing Chelsea blue. Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio are the first two which spring to mind, they represent polished versions of Sissoko and Capoue's uncut gems, this of course means that Juventus are likely to be unwilling to part with them, and if they are to leave Turin, they will be very expensive. Add Kwadwo Asamoah and Paul Pogba from Juventus and you get a midfield that's all real tyros, very much Chelsea of old actually (Essien, Ballack, Mikel etc). Juventus, despite their strength at present are still apparently looking to strengthen their squad in the summer, that could potentially make Asamoah and Pogba available longer term, there has been a lot of talk about Vidal and Marchisio also moving on, Vidal to Bayern Munich or Real Madrid and Marchisio to Man Utd or PSG. Whilst I doubt both will move, there is a chance that Juve could cash in on one, Chelsea needs to be in for Vidal and/or Marchisio should one of them become available. Mauricio Ilsa, despite his lack of playing time and poor form for Juve will probably stay stay, but I would not be opposed to his arrival as squad player, despite his poor form, largely because Juventus have really used him incorrectly, he was awesome playing the correct position at Udinese.
Serie A has relatively few other players who would assist us (it really is becoming a 2nd tier league with only Juventus bucking the trend), which is really rather a shame, Chelsea has always been something of England's Italian club with legends like Roberto di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli and promising youngster like Fabio Borini and Jacopo Sala in recent times. There are a few however who we should be looking at; Siena's (well on loan from Genoa) Valerio Verre, (technically Serie B) Hellas Verona's Jorginho with whom we've been frequently linked in recent months; along with both Milanese clubs, (technically Serie B) Padova's Federico Viviani on loan from Roma we never managed to tempt Daniele de Rossi away from the Eternal City but perhaps we can with Viviani, (technically Serie B) Crotone's Lorenzo Crisetig on loan and along with Lorenzo Tassi he's one of Internazionale's really big youth hopes, Milan's Bryan Cristante, with whom we've been frequently linked is a fine young talent and would be a good addition long term (Milan are something of a bright spot amongst Serie A's malaise; they have some very fine youth players to watch - M'Baye Niang, Hachim Mastour, Yuri Meleleo, Luca Vido, Michael Fabbro, Andres Llamas Acuna and Patrick Cutrone), Lazio's Hernanes (also apparently sought by Real Madrid and PSG) and Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado (a Mourinho favourite apparently).
Another player who I think would make an ideal addition would be David Alaba. Though often employed as a LB he's equally adept a player as a DM (and having him in the squad I'd be more comfortable with only having Ryan Bertrand and Patrick van Anholt on the left next season). For Bayern, Alaba is an integral future part of their set up - we will struggle to get him. That may not be the case for other Munich based options however, there are plenty of questions being asked about where Javi Martinez fits in a Guardiola led Bayern - the most likely answer is at centre back, but with Dante, Jan Kirchhoff, Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng already there and expensive new signings arriving as well, the big money that could be made through selling Martinez could be very tempting. If Martinez stays, that obviously raises questions about the future of Luiz Gustavo and Emre Can as well as rising youth talent Sebastian Mrowca. Javi Martinez would be a great signing (however unlikely) for Chelsea (in fact given the chance he'd be my 2nd choice behind only Arturo Vidal as an addition at defensive mid), and I can also see strong arguments in favour of Luiz Gustavo and Emre Can, should they become available as options.
Since Pep announced his move to Bayern, there has been heaps of talk about who'll be arriving with him; Neymar, Arda Turan, Sergio Busquets, Mats Hummels, Leon Goretzka, Levin Oztunali, Isco (though it seems we may have 1st option on him thanks to the Piazon loan so maybe not), Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal, Beñat, Gerard Deulofeu, Luis Suarez, Stevan Jovetic, Victor Valdes, Mario Götze, Edinson Cavani, Adrian Lopez, Edin Dzeko, Michu and Angelo Ogbonna (using every penny of his alleged [and unbelievable] transfer budget of €278 million).
This could have a serious impact upon who we can and can't go after in the summer - but it also bring with it potential opportunities to raid the Munich stables as some fall from favour (Mario Gomez, potentially Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Mario Mandzukic) whilst youth stars are squeezed out by new arrivals (Oliver Markoutz, Julian Green, Nikola Jelisic, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, Sebastian Mrowca, Patrick Weihrauch, Dennis Chessa, Alessandro Schöpf, Fabian Hürzeler, Emre Can, Jérôme Boateng, Leopold Zingerle, Raif Husic and Leon Fischhaber).
The (relatively) new development is that former Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld suggested that Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos may not feature in a side which will be coached by Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness denies they're set to sell several of their top players - but the speculation continues.
Adding to the list of midfielders whom I would like the club to look at potentially poaching from Bayern Munich is Franco-Danish central/defensive mid Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg. He is one of the youngest ever players to make a debut for the Bayern senior team (not sure whether or not he managed to edge out David Alaba's record, but regardless it demonstrates the high regard in which Bayern hold him that he has gone close to beating Alaba's record as the youngest ever senior team debutant. Young Austrian and Bayern centre mid Alessandro Schöpf, with 9 goals and 8 assists this season, he's been a strong performer for Bayern II this season. Schöpf is an impressive performer and is worth a look at he may yet be the next in line after Höjbjerg. If it's not Schöpf, it could be Fabian Hürzeler, former Germany U16 captain and a regular performer for Bayern II this season alongside Schöpf. Hürzeler alongside Bayern U19 star Julian Green has the option of playing for either the USA or Germany. Green has been a key player in helping Bayern U19 emulate the senior team to the top of the Sud/Sudwest U19 league. Other Bayern youth stars worth a look are Daniel Hägler, Michael Strein, Oliver Markoutz, Patrick Weihrauch, Dennis Chessa, Jérôme Boateng, Leopold Zingerle, Raif Husic and Leon Fischhaber and Nikola Jelisic.
When one thinks of German defensive midfielders these days, they think of the two Bender brothers, Lars and Sven whilst either would be a good signing and both would obviously be fantastic, I don't rate our chances of signing either of them (let alone both) as very high. Johannes Geis (19) from SpVgg Greuther Fürth Is a rising star in this field and is also quite worth a look as he is one of the most defensively minded defensive mids playing today, a true defender in a more advanced position as opposed to a regista or a libero, though he is very good at what he does (though I suspect he may eventually be converted into a centre back). Hannover 96's Andre Hoffman is similar to Geis and is also worth a look, but I think Geis has the greater potential of the two. One lad we could look at over the medium term is Bayer Leverkusen youngster Jonas Meffert, a Germany U19 representative, but is rather surprisingly off contract with Leverkusen at the end of the season. Slightly further along the developmental path is Eintracht Frankfurt's Sebastian Rode (22) who is apparently also being monitored as a potential summer signing by Bayern Munich.
With Kevin de Bruyne possibly heading to BvB to replace the Bayern Munich bound Mario Goetze it seems rather unlikely we'll get a chance to bid for another Mourinho favourite; İlkay Gündoğan. The stats on the lad are phenomenal - a pass success rate of 86.6% in the and 2.6 interceptions per game in 23 appearances and he has been a key figure - behind the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Mario Goetze pulling the strings in Dortmund's midfield. Replacing Goetze, should we hold onto Kevin de Bruyne will likely be German-Brazilian star Leonardo Bittencourt, who even with comparatively limited playing time with the likes of Goetze in front of him has managed to impress this season and stake a reputation as a player Chelsea should be looking at.
BvB also have a number of other players in whom we should show quite a strong interest (obviously I suppose, they did manage to make the Champions League final to compete with Bayern after all). Winger/attacking mid/occasional striker Marco Reus is the key man, with Mario Goetze gone, he's even more vital for Dortmund, but with Chelsea interested and Man City very interested it'll be interesting to see what happens with him, I'd have him amongst my very top picks for the summer, though he'll not be easy to pry away from BvB. Nuri Sahin has not quite recaptured his former magic just yet, but he's gotten a lot closer at Dortmund than he did in Liverpool, or Madrid for that matter. He'd be a risky signing based upon his form dive in Spain, but as I noted earlier, we have to be willing to take risks and he certainly brings, if he's on song some of what we desperately need in midfield, vision and an ability to distribute the ball, (he's also only on loan at BvB, he's still on contract with Real Madrid). Out wide the BvB have Kevin Großkreutz and Jakub Blaszczykowski ‘Kuba', neither are really necessary at Chelsea, though I have to say that both would make very dependable squad players (the real issue being one does not seek to sign squad players from Dortmund when Reus, Gündoğan and Lewandowski are available).
There are a number of other big name German midfielders in whom we should have some significant interest. First is big powerful VfL Bochum midfielder Leon Goretzka, he is also being sought by a number of other major European clubs, but I think he's almost a must buy for Chelsea, big, fast, mobile with good skills, he's being rightly compared with former Chelsea star Michael Ballack. He has been awarded the Fritz Walter medal as Germany's most outstanding 17 year-old, and would be a huge asset for us. Goretzka is at Bochum, at Schalke, our key target is their star young winger; Julian Draxler. Schalke have managed to sign Draxler to a new contract just recently, but for a club like Chelsea, that would simply raise his buy-out clause, it certainly does not preclude us from signing him. Yet another impressive young German attacker, Draxler would fit in nicely with our current set up of attacking options, he also won a Fritz Walter medal in 2011. Schalke's other young attacking mid Max Meyer is rather different (5ft 6 1/2in to Draxler's 6ft 2in) but he has also been recognised as the player of last year's UEFA U17 U17 Championship and won the silver Fritz Walter behind Goretzka.
Germany's youth academies are developing an array of talented youngsters, perhaps alongside a continuing Belgian revolution we should consider a German revolution as well (Chelsea of the near future may be about the three B's - Belgium, Brazil and Bundesliga). In addition to the players considered in the previous paragraphs, these lads are also worthy of some serious consideration; Amin Younes, Ole Käuper, Federico Palacios Martinez, Julian Brandt, Kerem Bülbül, Alessandro Fiore Tapia, Rico Preißinger, Sinan Kurt, Timo Werner, Felix Lohkemper, Patrick Pflücke, Devante Parker, Cihangir Özlokman, Marvin Mehlem, Benjamin Henrichs, Marian Sarr and Leon Kern.
Apart from David Alaba and Aleksandar Dragović, Austria is developing a number of fine young attacking players in whom we should be paying interest. First is Florian Grillitsch, 18 goals this season for AKA St Polten in the Austrian youth league and four caps for Austria U18, he's an impressive young midfielder. SK Rapid Vienna's 19 year old star winger Marcel Sabitzer is another young gun Austrian who has attracted interest already from big clubs in England and Germany. An Austrian already making a big name for himself in the Bundesliga is Stuttgart's Raphael Holzhauser a tall powerful central midfielder more than a little of the Fellaini about him. Austria U17 stars Valentino Lazaro and Adrian Grbic have recent turned out for the national team at the UEFA U17 Championships in Slovakia. Lazaro, is an attacking midfielder and an elegant team player who works hard both to win possession and create chances for his side. Grbic is a fast winger who operates primarily on the left, he's a creative player with a degree of unpredictability and a good long shot, he's the top scorer at Stuttgart U17 this season who are leading Regionalliga Sud/Sudwest.
Similar to our aforementioned Bender brothers are the Kenyan duo; Victor Wanyama and McDonald Mariga will both likely be for sale in January, Wanyama is the better of the two and is attracting the interest of a number of top Premier League clubs. Both are very much Mourinho signings though I would argue, Mariga has already been signed by the Special One once, out from under Man City's nose when Jose was managing Inter Milan, whilst Wanyama is the kind of aggressive tackler and runner that Mourinho saw in Michael Essien mid last decade.
From our favoured talent repository, Brazil, there are a number of good options. Fernando Lucas (20) of Gremio, Felipe Anderson (19) of Santos, Paulinho (24) of Corinthians and Jean (26) of Fluminense represent the key Brazil based options. Fernando Lucas and Felipe Anderson are both huge talents, with Brazil age representation and should be considered for long term roles, but are both a bit young and inexperienced at this stage to mix it at the highest level. Paulinho would be ideal, again he's big, strong and fast and we saw his ability at the Club World Cup - competition from the Milanese clubs and Man City is the big hurdle. Jean is a bit older but has been a star at Fluminense over the last 12 months and recently earned his first cap for Brazil, he might be more of a gamble than Paulinho, but he's got the form on the board over the last year.
In Europe the talented Brazilian options are Fernandinho (27), Rômulo Borges (22), Giuliano (22) and Fernando Reges (25). We all saw Fernandinho's abilities for Shaktar, he's looking for a move westwards and though he's tweeted about playing in Manchester, a move further south would be good, he bring experience and determination. Fernandinho is really the heart of Shaktar's midfield, playing both a defensive and distributive role. He is a midfielder in the Brazilian national team (the workmanlike Dunga era is over, Joga Bonito is [allegedly] back, so he knows how to attack). His age is a negative, but he should otherwise not be discounted, he has the talent to do the job and is already well known by much of the team (Luiz, Ramires, Oscar etc). [UPDATE - we've missed out and Jamie Redknapp has given a hype filled but also fairly accurate assessment of what we've missed out on in Fernandinho - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2337080/Jamie-Redknapp-Its-early-days-Fernandinho-signing-summer.html).
Rômulo and Giuliano are both regular (well over the past 6 months or so) starters for the Brazilian national team and are performing comfortably in their current competitions, the EPL and Chelsea would help them further their careers and would provide us with intelligent, young liberos. Porto star Fernando Reges is on the other hand, a destroyer, adept at recovering the ball from the opposition - he'd be ideal to pair with a flairier libero like Romulo or Giuliano (or in the future MacEachran, Romeu or Swift), Inter Milan are after him so we'll have to move quick if we want him. There is also Sao Paulo star Casemiro (20) on loan at Real Madrid and possibly a very easy player for Mourinho to bring with him to Chelsea, he's apparently been very good whilst at the Santiago Bernabeu and could make a good transition from Santiago Bernabeu to Stamford Bridge.
It is unfortunate that he currently plays for Porto - cause they're always so easy to deal with in transfer negotiations [massive sarcasm], it is even more unfortunate then, that Steven Defour is currently turning out at the Estádio do Dragão.
The man I've yet to mention is Everton's star DM/CM/trequartista/false nine; Marouane Fellaini. There's little I can add to Graham's article from not too long ago, he's an ideal fit, though I'd say he should really be played further forward alongside Oscar and Hazard, not Mikel and Romeu. The big problem with the big man (along with other potential Evertonian's we might like to take a look at; Ross Barkley, John Stones [in 2014], Leighton Baines [another option at left back], George Green, Tyias Browning or Ryan Ledson) is that their highly respected former boss, is now in charge of one of our biggest rivals, and Moyes apparently wants Fellaini and Baines at Man Utd with him; though there is also some speculation that he will not rob his old club of talent to strengthen his new club, a ‘hands off' approach to Everton stars.
There are other Belgian options that occupy the central position; Radja Nainggolan, Moussa Dembele, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and the aforementioned Steven Defour, Spurs are unlikely to want to part with Dembele (their best player at the moment), Odjidja-Ofoe looks set to replace Fellaini in Everton's DM set up at the moment (which will potentially set him up for a move to a big club like Chelsea a few years down the line) and Nainggolan, despite the talk around his talent, I don't see him at Chelsea, not that he's not supremely talented, but given the fact that Man City, Juventus, Roma and a number of big Russian clubs are after him, I suspect he'll stay in Italy or head to Manchester or Moscow.
Beñat, makes the cut, and with his thundering free kicks and clever attacking play. From the much improved Real Sociedad line up comes Asier Illarramendi, the rock in the middle of the Sociedad midfield is ready for a move up in the world, in fact this article suggests that he's ready for a very big move up in the world and could be better than Xavi - http://espnfc.com/columns/story/_/id/1404174/ball:-clones-from-pea-mountain?cc=3436. Ander Herrera is another Spanish option, he's one of the great Bilbao generation, had a poor Olympic campaign last year and started this season poorly, but has subsequently regained form. He could also help with drawing some of the other fine Basque talent currently on offer to the Bridge, particularly Iker Muniain, Iñigo Ruiz de Galarreta, Jon Aurtenetxe, Jonás Ramalho, Fernando Amorebieta and Markel Susaeta. Though heavily tracked by Man City and the Milanese giants, Sampdoria's Spanish engine Pedro Obiang has also been recently tracked by Chelsea (along with fellow Sampdoria midfield young guns Roberto Soriano and Nenad Krsticic). As with Kondogbia and Rabiot-Provost, the Sampdoria trio of Obiang, Soriano and Krsticic are players for the future.
Spain remain very strong and the Spanish influence at Chelsea will remain strong even if Fernando Torres leaves, Cesar Azpilicueta and Oriol Romeu will stay and Mourinho may bring some players or staff with him back from Madrid. Spanish youth stars remain of particular interest to Chelsea as well. First and foremost, we're interested in bringing in Malaga star Isco. I unfortunately think that ship may have sailed, Man City have the money and now Pellegrini as well, our muted deal that saw Lucas Piazon go on loan to Malaga in order to secure first option on Isco may have been mere speculation, and even if it was what occurred it will likely not translate into Isco in the royal blue (instead he'll likely end up in sky blue). Iker Muniain was a big time target not long ago, but he has severe attitude issues which come with his on field gifts, I think it's unlikely he'll be signed given the breadth of existing talent in the attacking third and the depth of other options available. Gerard Deulofeu is the current crown jewel of La Masia and Barca are working very hard at getting him to sign a contract extension, which I expect he probably will, but we must keep our eyes on him, he's a seriously super little player who would work wonderfully with Mata, Oscar, the Hazard and Musonda brothers, Piazon and KdB.
Thiago Alcantara is still doubtful to leave the Camp Nou despite what the papers say - unless of course the Spanish economy tanks further and the dodgy support the Catalonia gives the Blaugranes becomes untenable, or they really need some extra cash after the Neymar deal - he's awesome prospect we've had our eyes on for years, played with Romeu for Barcelona B so there's even some familiarity with current members of our squad. Whilst I would add Sergio Busquets to the same category as Thiago, unlikely save for a further serious decline in the Spanish economy, other stars from the Camp Nou are significantly more attainable (if current speculation is anything to go by this may now not necessarily be the case, but then again, I would want to be overly optimistic). Former Arsenal midfielder Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong more commonly Alex Song, is one such player - I've never really considered him for a Chelsea shirt before, but he would be a reasonable signing should we fail on other fronts, I can't see him as a preferred choice by Mourinho so I'd say it's pretty unlikely. Sergi Roberto and Sergi Samper, long term targets of Michael Emenalo's Catalan strategy will definitely be hard to unseat from the Camp Nou, and there is now competition for their services from not only the blue half of Manchester, but also the red half of Munich (as well as PSG, Monaco and Arsenal - and probably Man Utd, Tottenham, Liverpool and Juventus too).
La Masia has plenty of other youth talents on its books however, and we're likely to sign Barca and Ecudaor winger Josimar Quintero apparently. Beyond Josimar there are plenty of other impressive young talents to consider; Marc Muniesa, Alejandro ‘Álex' Grimaldo, Rafinha Alacantara, Jean Marie Dongou, Ferrán Sarsaneda, Antonio Sanabria, Adama Traore, Pol Calvet, Xavier Quintillà, Miguel Angel Sainz Maza, Rodrigo Tarin, Juanma García, and Mohamed El Ouriachi. In Spain more generally there are further impressive youth options; Óliver Torres, Pedro Chirivella, Alejandro ‘Álex' Serrano, Saúl Ñíguez, Nono, Alejandro Pozuelo, Álvaro Vadillo, José Campaña and Santi Mina.
Domestically things are somewhat difficult - competition is particularly fierce with both top and mid table clubs for the best in domestic talent and all of England regulars are already representing a major club be it Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd, Man City, Tottenham or Liverpool. The best English midfielder who is a realistic possibility of signing for Chelsea is Southampton star Adam Lallana. Lallana has been chronically underrated for some time now, and I would argue that he fits well in our team as a second utility midfielder (after Ramires). The issue with Lallana would be his desire for more playing time that we can probably give him and his tendency to pick up injuries, there is also the issue that we're far more interested in doing business with Southampton for Luke Shaw. Lallana also has a number of Saint's teammates in whom we could invest, Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Stephens. Beyond the Saints, Everton's Ross Barkley, West Brom's Isaiah Brown, England U17 captain and Middlesbrough star Bryn Morris, off contract Wales U21 and Man City defensive midfielder Emyr Huws are all good potential options. I would like to be able to add Tottenham's Alex Pritchard and Harry Kane but I would suspect that they will be viciously guarded from transfer by Spurs.
For a more traditional attacking midfielder, I would argue there is a very clear option, Miralem Pjanic, he's not particularly good in the air and he's a weaker defender than other potential options, but he's pretty good at everything else. Roma will drive a hard bargain to keep him and there's been suggestions recently that he's attracting the attention of Barcelona as well, so there'll be competition for his signature. AZ Alkmaar's Markus Henriksen is a fine player and could be very ably put into the central or attacking midfield. OL's Clement Grenier is the other option when it comes to signing a more conventional type attacking midfielder (in the more traditional Frank Lampard mould), he's seriously talented and would be seriously cheaper than Pjanic (though I'd say similar to Henriksen), but perhaps a bit more special than Alkmaar's Norwegian star - he's also attracting the attention of Juventus and AC Milan. Grenier would also give us good links with other OL stars, Anthony Martial, Zakarie Labidi, Kilian Pagliuca, Ulrik Jenssen, Samuel Umtiti, Dejan Lovren, Maxime Gonalons, Gueïda Fofana and Bafetimbi Gomis. He is strongly rumoured to be off to Arsenal at the time of writing, I rather hope Mourinho gives him a call though, we've nicked a great player form under Arsenal's nose once or twice before, Grenier is worth doing it again (now, or in two years).
The man for the future in this position though is an Englishman I'd wager, Derby County's young star attacking mid Wil Hughes. The bleach blonde midfield maestro has taken the Championship by storm this season, with supremely talented. Playing in an attacking role, with a deadly eye for a pass and decent dribbling skills when on the move, he plays the game like a veteran, despite his youth. He's a player who when given the confidence and assurance to play the way he can, will thrive on the game, especially as Derby seem to go through him when going forward quite a lot. He's wanted by all the big clubs in England, but we cannot miss out on him (like we did on Phil Hughes).
Mourinho may be set to bring a new Claude Makélelé, 31 year old Spanish defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso. Or perhaps it will be 26 year old German defensive midfielder Sami Khedira could be a man that Jose brings back with him (in addition to the Bison!). There is quite a bit of speculation about exactly whom Mourinho may want to bring over from Madrid to London. I've previously noted that El Economista recently ran an article on the 10 RM players ‘not for sale' (http://translate.googleusercontent.com/...ic2MePbJv_XGIUtN0w) implying that yes, all the rest are for sale...whilst i'm rather skeptical about an article from that not entirely note worthy publication, there is evidence that Jose likes working with players he trusts - Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Essien, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Quaresma and Hernan Crespo have all played under Mourinho at two of his clubs - and heaps of other Mourinho favourites have nearly followed the boss to new clubs (and other still like Deco followed the Special one - in Deco's case after Jose had already left Stamford Bridge for the San Siro).
Abramovich has allegedly promised Mourinho he'll sign Pepe and Angel di Maria from RM should he return to Chelsea - whilst the papers have mainly been talking about Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and to a lesser (for a good reason) extent Cristiano Ronaldo. I have already considered that adding Raphaël Varane, Juan José Manresa, Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz and Francisco José Rodríguez to our defence could be rather useful. Additional defenders currently in Madrid that could be valuable if brought across include Fábio Coentrão, known for his ill-discipline but also his attacking prowess on the left (he's also being very closely followed by Tottenham), and he might be useful linking up with former Benfica teammates David Luiz and Ramires. Sergio Ramos loves to make quitting noises, but he's yet to follow through, and he's not exactly Mou's most loyal lieutenant, whilst he's an Abramovich favourite, I can't see him moving. In the youth set up apart from Juan José Manresa, Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz and Francisco José Rodríguez, Iván Sáez is the best option.
In the midfield apart from Khedira, Alonso and Casemiro; Luka Modric would be a good pick, a long term Chelsea target, but he's not exactly had a great season in Spain, whilst there is plenty of promise among those playing in the various levels of RM Castilla; Alejandro Fernández Iglesias or ‘Álex', José Rodríguez Martínez, Lucas Torró, Cristian Josué Artiles Cedrés, Alberto Rubio, Aleix Febas, Álvaro Fidalgo and Jack Harper. Up front, with the exception of the spurious Ronaldo talk, there is really only youth - Denis Cheryshev and Jesé Rodríguez.
Business - (Dream Business) - Very hard to narrow it down to just a few, even for a look at dream business, for the senior squad; Marouane Fellaini, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez and for next season when Lampard goes either Clement Grenier or Rômulo. For youth Leon Goretzka, Wil Hughes, Adrien Rabiot-Provost and Julian Draxler.
Business - (Realistic) - I'd be ecstatic if we could land Fellaini, either Etienne Capoue or Asier Illarramendi and İlkay Gündoğan. The youth team would be strengthened by adding Wil Hughes and say a few Italians (Bryan Cristante, Lorenzo Crisetig), Spaniards (Nono, Alvaro Vadillo) or Austrians (Florian Grillitsch and Valentino Lazaro).
OUT - Florent Malouda, Yossi Benayoun heaps of lads on loan.
Forwards - we're not getting everything we could out of our current ‘extra-Mazacar' attacking mids/wingers/trequartistas/secondary strikers - Victor Moses, Marko Marin (where the hell is Marin!?!? would somebody please tell me), Lucas Piazon (hopefully the loan spell at Malaga will do him well), Florent Malouda (I know he's on the way out, but that doesn't mean he couldn't still see some action) and Yossi Benayoun (might stay given his history with FSW, never really had his chance under Ancelotti due to injuries).
In the youth ranks we've got Islam Feruz (we can all see his class and future with the club), Lewis Baker (same as Feruz), Jeremie Boga (has been less dynamic recently when compared with the start of the season...but still a very good prospect), Joao Rodriguez, Victorien Angban (both of whom have the potential to play for Chelsea but are a bit behind Feruz, Baker and Boga), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charlie Colkett, Conor Hunte, John Swift, Charly Musonda (not necessarily any of their best positions - but as I've noted previously I see bright things for Loftus-Cheek, Swifft, Colkett, Hunte and Musonda at the club). I see less opportunities for George Cole, Reece James Loudon and Amin Affane. On loan we have Kevin de Bruyne who is going excellently in the Bundesliga, Gael Kakuta, who is going less well for Vitesse, but still has promise, Thorgan Hazard who is also going well for Zulte Waregem and Ulises Davila who is impressing at Spanish 2nd Division side Sabadell, realistically I can see Thorgan Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne playing for Chelsea - that probably isn't true of Kakuta or Davila (a shame I'm a big fan of Davila's too). For next season we will also have our young Chilean star signing, Cristian Cuevas and will likely also have young Barca and Ecudaor winger Josimar Quintero.
Recent speculation has linked Thorgan Hazard with Anderlecht. Whilst it would be foolish to lose the younger Hazard to Anderlecht, loaning him to the big Belgian club to secure us some first refusals on some new players to continue the Belgian Revolution seems a wise option. Anderlecht has a fantastic academy which we should be monitoring; David Henen, Umberto Carvalho dos Santos, Dennis Praet, Jordan Lukaku, Leander Dendoncker, Massimo Bruno and Sefa Isci.
There are quite a few impressive options for addition to our current attacking mids/wingers/trequartistas/secondary striker mix. Atlético Mineiro's Bernard has been quite extensively monitored by Chelsea scouts in Brazil, he's a great talent and would fit in very well with Oscar and Lucas Piazon in our attacking third. But he's very small and slight and given we're lacking in muscle at present may not be the best option. Alex Teixeira he's been a target before, when he was the star (alongside Giuliano) of the Brazil squad at the 2009 U20 World Cup in Egypt. A star now at Shaktar, I would have chosen him over Willian when we were Willian focused (prior to Willian's shift to Anzhi Makhachkala in January), Douglas Costa with whom we've also been previously linked has intimated he'd like to move away from Shaktar, most likely back to Brazil to rebuild his chances of being taken on by a bigger club (good luck to him but I'm uncertain as to his chances of success). Erik Lamela is not an easy option to pursue due to his complicated ownership arrangements, but he certainly stacks up skills wise and Man City are following him despite the concerns about his ownership situation.
SAF always tried to have 4 frontline strikers for Man Utd (and I see no reason that David Moyes will look to alter this pattern), in 2011-12 they were Rooney, Chicharito, Welbeck and Berbatov...five if you count Owen, aged 26, 24, 21, 31 and 32 respectively (you could potentially add Federico Macheda, 20 and maybe Ashley Young, 26 to that list). ...and he has recently offloaded Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov, but he's also brought in Robin van Persie and has got Danny Welbeck to sign a new contract he's currently running Rooney, Chicharito, Welbeck and van Persie aged 26, 24, 21 and 29 respectively. What's more next year (provided they're not sold of course) there'll be a new generation available out of Man U's youth teams; Joshua King, William Keane, Jesse Lingard, John Cofie and Gyliano van Velzen and on loan he's got Ángelo Henríquez at Wigan.
I recognise there's a counter point to my argument here -http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/28/4038114/striker-for-next-season-do-we-need-him - which, whilst I accept I also propose the counter arguments of Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain all of whom have at least three (if not four) effective top class strikers and still manage to find space for attacking mids/wingers/trequartistas/secondary strikers. If we want to compete in 4-7 competitions with clubs like these we will have to follow suite.
Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku and potentially a less than useful Fernando Torres, does not an effective strike force make, even with the assortment of winger/attacking mid/(second-shadow-reserve-super sub) strikers that we're accumulating at present (I speak of course here of Hazard, Mata, Oscar, de Bruyne, Marin), and potential back up in the form of Milan Lalkovic, Patrick Bamford, Lucas Piazon, Islam Feruz and Ulises Davila.
There is a very real chance that Torres will stay in the summer, Abramovich remains a very big fan of his by all accounts, ala Shevchenko, I doubt a loan would be an option like it was with Shevchenko - perhaps to Anzhi Makhachkala, Guangzhou Evergrande, or maybe to Atletico Madrid (Man City, PSG, Liverpool and AS Monaco are outside chances as well but with an emphasis on the ‘outside'). That of course doesn't mean a new striker won't arrive though. This may not necessarily be a bad thing. Torres would likely still be at least partially paid his Chelsea wages should he go out on loan, given that fact we may as well have him here and still at least semi-useful. Further, as we all know Mourinho likes to have two good players for every position, and probably would be keen on having at least three reasonably high quality strikers; one new striker, André Schürrle (signed, sealed, delivered - almost) and Romelu ‘The Kraken' Lukaku is one way of achieving this - one new striker, André Schürrle and Torres/Ba with Lukaku again on loan is another.
Assuming we can sell Torres (which while people seem to think is a dead cert, as noted above I'm far from convinced), the other key question is what to do with Lukaku, does he stay or is it better to send him on another loan. I can see market forces deciding this to a certain degree; should it be possible to bring in two top class strikers for a reasonable price, Lukaku may be set for another loan, if not then he'll play an important if secondary role next season. Arguably it would be better for his development that he be loaned again (to someone like say Everton) to further his development, somewhere where he'd be No.1 as opposed to Stamford Bridge where (most likely) he'd be No.2 at best. It's a coin toss as to, in an ideal world you hold onto Lukaku or loan him out again.
Hulk and Stefan Jovetic are interesting to throw into the discussion here, I would argue there's really nothing necessarily wrong with having one of them Cavani in the same team (save for the tremendous price that we would incur to secure them), but most other fans, like yourself prefer one of them, plus a ‘different' kind of striker - Jovetic or Hulk for example (there are others too; Mario Gomez, Gonzalo Higuain and Robert Lewandowski being the three most oft mentioned).
Depending upon the day, some have suggested Mourinho's return hinges upon the acquisition of Zenit St. Petersburg's Brazilian Drogba, Hulk. Roman Abramovich has nearly signed Hulk for two managers now, AVB and RDM, third time might be a charm, particularly given that it's not all roses for the big man in Russia. Hulk would be best deployed in a 4-2-1-3 formation as part of an attacking trio with Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, with Oscar playing a supporting role just behind them alongside the pivot and Lukaku/Torres or somebody else up front, or with Hazard, Mata and Oscar in a more conventional 4-2-3-1 and Hulk up front. Either way, they would also be a force to be reckoned with.
The most recent talk; since Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final defeat by Borussia Dortmund anyway - has been about Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski is a striker's striker and Mourinho was an up-close admirer of the Pole's abilities in both legs. The media hype machine has already begun surrounding Mourinho's apparently imminent return to Stamford Bridge and his desire to work with Lewandowski. Mourinho is well known to (almost) always get his man; be it Ashley Cole, Ricardo Quaresma, Michael Essien, Jon Obi Mikel, Arjen Robben or Mesut Ozil. That doesn't ensure anything regarding Lewandowski, we're comparatively late to the party in the race for the big Pole with Man Utd, Bayern Munich jostling for quite a while for him and more recently Man City and Real Madrid sitting up and taking notice. The most recent speculation is about a part-exchange Lewandowski for Kevin de Bruyne plus cash, as much as I want Lewandowski, is it worth loosing KdB, particularly when it is obvious that BvB see him as a Goetze replacement, that should be a good enough reason for us to keep him. Is Lewandowski better than Falcao and worth loosing KdB?
So Cavani or perhaps Mario Gomez, Robert Lewandowski...or Hulk or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or someone else...trouble is they all have compelling arguments; Cavani's is his aerial abilities and the fact i think he'd fit in very well with the squad. Gomez is nearly as good as Falcao is and would likely be cheaper. Lewandowski is younger and probably about as good as Falcao if not necessarily better, Hulk offers other unique abilities - at this point I'm not exactly sure who'd be best...it's the (quite possibly) £50 million question.
Dieumerci Mbokani, Michy Batshuayi, Cyriac Gohi Bi Zoro Sede - a trio of Drogba-esque forwards plying their trade in what is now our favourite talent pool, the Juliper League - Cyriac and Batshuayi are both potential future back up Lukaku's whilst Mbokani might act as the superior like-for-like Demba Ba. Lacina Traore, now leading the line for Anzhi Makhachkala alongside Samuel Eto'o, Traore as I've previously noted would be an ideal Tore Andre Flo ‘Super Sub' style signing, his height would also give us the edge on Stoke City's Peter Crouch(203cm vs 202cm).
Nélson Oliveira, Paulo Dybala, Adryan, Viktor Fischer, Lazar Markovic, Carlos Fierro, along with a few others (Samuele Longo, Ademilson, Douglas Baggio, Paco Alcácer, Shawn Parker and Luis Muriel) these lads represent the next crop of true (well largely) Centre Forwards going around. We've already got one of this group (Romelu Lukaku) and we need at least one more, my current guess would be Markovic will get the spot, I'd personally prefer it be Nélson Oliveira, Paulo Dybala, Adryan or Viktor Fischer. I could go on further about certain youth stars we should be watching; Jean-Christophe Bahebeck, Son Heung-Min, M'Baye Niang, Enes Unal, Andrej Kramaric, Jackson (Jackson Beckham Diego Socrates da Silva de Jesus), Koby Arthur, Neilton, Robert Kenedy Nunes, George-Kevin Nkoudou, Hicham Khaloua, Richairo Živković and Adam Campbell.
There's a lot of debate in the fan community at the moment about exactly what we want in a striker -http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/28/4038114/striker-for-next-season-do-we-need-him andhttp://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/17/3997946/on-chelseas-striker-situation to name just two of the most recent fanposts within the WAGNH community - I don't have the answer but I believe that more than just Hulk, Lazar Markovic, Edinson Cavani and Heung Min Son should be in the debate.
Another addition we could make up front, would be akin to the addition Bayern made when they, not long after their Champions League defeat last year, made re-signing old Bayern fan favourite (the Anden-Bomber or Andes Bomber as Bayern fans call him)and former Chelsea forward Claudio Pizarro a priority. Pizarro knew his role was as very much the experienced older head and behind Gomez, Mandzukic and Muller in the pecking order. His goals and decent number of appearances for Bayern this season demonstrates the value in sometimes bring in some wily old legs. Pizarro's discontent at Chelsea followed Mourinho's sacking, he was very much a Mourinho choice and did not feature in Avram Grant's plans, his one year deal with Bayern will soon expire, the return of Mourinho provides the perfect chance to return to a third one of his former clubs. Other options for what I will term the ‘Pizarro role' are Diego Milito (33) currently still at Inter, Mourinho's go to forward for the 2010 treble, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (31, and to be fair he would not be the same kind of signing as Pizarro/Milito would, again though he's worked well with Mourinho in the past menaing he's now got ne greater affinity with Man City [the Mancini connection] than he might have with us, and he's certainly still capable - though he'd be far more expensive than Pizarro/Milito) and well there's Didier Drogba of course.
Business - (Dream Business) - André Schürrle (signed - almost), Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Youth signings; Shawn Parker, Paulo Dybala, Donis Avdijaj and David Henen.
OUT - Demba Ba, Lukaku on loan again, Shawn Parker, Patrick Bamford, Paulo Dybala, Donis Avdijaj and David Henen all out on loan
Business - (Realistic) - André Schürrle (signed - almost), Edinson Cavani and Lazar Markovic.
OUT - Fernando Torres, Lazar Markovic and Patrick Bamford out on loan.
At Chelsea, pretty much everyone has a relatively well defined position at least on paper (I'm not trying to say that nobody ever plays anywhere but their favoured position - but undoubtedly they have a role) many have recently suggested that we, along with Barcelona and several other top sides are plying a more ‘free form' or position-less kind of football, I'm not sure I entirely agree with that assessment personally, however. Bayern are different, every player, or almost every player has more than one ‘defining' position, Bastian Schweinsteiger for example can play as a defensive mid, a right or left mid, an attacking mid, a trequartista, even on occasions a winger. Similarly David Alaba can be at left back, left mid, left wing, defensive mid or again on occasion central midfield, and the list, both of players and of the different positions they frequently play at goes on and on. That versatility, whilst certainly not alien at Chelsea, is certainly lacking at the moment and is something we'll have to rectify.
This fact about a lack of versatility is coupled with the fact that at present, there is too little competition for places in the Chelsea starting XI, especially when compared with the likes of Bayern. Mourinho's old rule of two good players for every position seems to have been thrown out the window some time ago now, and while we're extremely well serviced in a number of areas (attacking midfield, right back, probably could add left back and keeper as well though there are age issues with the latter pair) - other areas; centre forward, central/defensive midfielder and specialist substitute or ‘super sub' in particular where we're rather lacking in competition for places. This is both about squad size but also about the reduction in competition for starting XI places, we can't really choose not to play Mikel, unless Luiz plays forward there's nobody else who is capable in his position at present (even prior to Romeu's injury, Mikel was chosen 90% of the time). Squad size needs to be increased and competition for places in the starting XI needs to start a fresh.
Solutions - Muscle up, get fit, diversify and encourage competition
Onfield is not the only place we need to work on transfers, back room staff are also required. My first backroom signing - after Mourinho of course, would be one of Bayern's men, the fitness coaching team of Andreas Kornmayer and Marcelo Martins, both are off contract at the end of June and have been key to getting this current Bayern team fit and firing across a number of competitions.
ACADEMY - Too small, too few options for older players leading to a loss of experienced heads - no Chelsea FC II/B, Chelsea FC III/C
Fabio Borini, Michael Mancienne, Gökhan Töre, Jacopo Sala, Miroslav Stoch, Scott Sinclair. These are just some of the promising talents from our academy who have left in recent years; clearly the majority were not likely to make it at Chelsea - I remain less than entirely convinced that letting Borini go was a good idea (while he's been poor and injury prone at Liverpool, he was quite good last season for Roma). Michael Mancienne is good enough to be in an extended squad, probably not playing week in week out, but certainly good enough to be in such a squad. Gökhan Töre, played really rather well in a very poor Hamburg team last season, and again could've been part of an expanded squad. Scott Sinclair would likely be in the same position at Chelsea as he is at Man City, but again could form a useful player in an expanded squad. The stories for Miroslav Stoch, Jacopo Sala and others would be a bit different (though to be fair to both lads, Stoch was seen as a big loss when he left, it's only more recently he's dipped form wise and Sala just last month played for Italy U21 for the 6th time), but the overall picture is clear, while most of these lads are reasonable players, they're just not quite up to Chelsea 1st team quality.
However, they would have been a good group to keep together for a Chelsea FC II or B and/or a Chelsea FC III or C team. Bayern have teams (in their case only a Bayern II, though other big German clubs also have a III team - a few even have a IV team) for the ongoing development of youth players after the age of 21. They also have a far more structured set of youth competitions - not just U18s and U21s but U17s and U16s as well (to be fair they do not have an U21 competition and the likes of Florent Malouda has been going round with our U21s, but it's hardly the same as playing for Bayern II).
Part of the problem is the academy just isn't big enough, Emenalo has been working on improving both the quality and size of the academy and he's done a fine job. But given the size and success rate of the Bayern academy, coupled with the ongoing presence of a fine academy at La Masia, an improving academy at PSG and big plans for a ‘La Masia in Manchester' by Man City - demonstrates that we'll need to keep investing to stay ahead of the game. I'm unsure of the current state of Roman's National Academy of Football in Russia which it was promised would be effectively a 2ndChelsea academy in Moscow, but the website suggests not much is happening (http://www.footballacademy.ru/eng/) - that's not to say there aren't there some impressive young Russian players; currently representing Russia at the UEFA U17 Championships are Zenit St.Petersburg's Russo-Turkmenistani star left wingback Jamaldin Khodzhaniyazov, striker Aleksey Gasilin (also at Zenit), Lokomotiv Moscow striker Rifat Zhemaletdinov and Spartak Moscow pair midfielder Daniil Buranov, Russia U16 captain and Hertha Berlin U17 striker Maxim Pronichev and goalkeeper Anton Mitryushkin (we've interestingly also failed to attract senior team star from Russia since Yuri Zhirkov; with the likes of Magomed Ozdoev, Alan Gatagov and well known Chelsea fan [and arguably Russia's best player] Alan Dzagoev all disappearing from the Chelsea radar).
What about the new deal with Malaga for loanees to head to the south of Spain - well it I think might prove very shrewd for Lucas Piazon, he's already got quite a few minutes out of it and I can see it working for others as well; to quote Stephen...
"Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt, Gael Kakuta, Nathaniel Chalobah, Todd Kane, Wallace, Kenneth Omeruo, and Josh McEachran* are all guys that could reasonably look to make a jump to that level. While Malaga itself may not be a fit for all of them, it certainly would be for some.
*Lazar Markovic would also fit nicely if a deal for him is finished"
However I think it remains to be seen how well this new relationship with Malaga can be leveraged. It's not the first time we've been sold on the supposed benefits of these partnerships - Vitesse Arnhem, Hamburg SV, NK Maribor, Fluminense, CSKA Moscow, FC Dinamo Tbilisi, FC Torpedo Moscow, CD Guadalajara, CE Sabadell FC and Dijon FCO (FC Copenhagen was even once muted for takeover by Roman's son Arkadiy Abramovich) have all be promised at one time or another to be feeder, pseudo-feeder or partnership clubs with Chelsea; and we've gotten very little out of the relationships. If one were to rank them, then Hamburg did the best at exploiting us; getting Michael Mancienne, Gökhan Töre, Slobodan Rajkovic, Jacopo Sala, and a two season loan of Jeffrey Bruma (oh and Frank Arnesen) and they nicked Dominik Masek from under our noses, and so far we've got nothing save for the loan of Bruma out of it (interest persists in Masek, Heung Min Son, Christian Nørgaard, Narek Abramov, Andre Monteiro Branco, Thore-Andreas Jacobsen, Jonathan Tah and Finn Porath - but little is likely to come of any of it). Relations with CSKA Moscow, FC Dinamo Tbilisi, FC Torpedo Moscow, CE Sabadell FC, Dijon FCO and CD Guadalajara, seem to have never really got that far off the ground, there was hope when Roman owned part of CSKA but he divested years ago now.
The partnerships with Vitesse Arnhem, NK Maribor and Fluminense (and hopefully we can add Malaga) have been relatively meaningful partnerships for both sides; Vitesse have looked after Kalas, van Anholt and Kakuta and have several lads on their books - Wilfred Bony, Renato Ibarra, Marco van Ginkel, Issa Kallon and Giorgi Chanturia - who our scouts have at least a passing interest in. Maribor has yet to take any Chelsea players on loan, but we maintain watching briefs on a number of their key young stars - Emir Dautović (18), Damjan Vuklisevic (17), Petar Stojanovic (17) and Robert Beric (21). In return for Deco, Fluminense handed us a trio of part ownerships; Wallace (which we've actioned), Ronan and Rafael Pernao. Other Flu lads we're watching include Marcos Junior, Higor and Jean.
Some of these partnerships have been good for Chelsea, but none are substitutes for a genuine B and C team and an expanded academy. If we're to develop further partnerships in the future we should focus on trying to get a tie up with Anderlecht, some sort of grand ‘billionaire's deal' with Shaktar Donetsk (Rinat Akhmetov is supposed to be a good mate of Abramovich's) and a firm agreement with Fluminense would be valuable, as would tie ups with Chinese, Japanese and Korean clubs.
I know that a lot of big clubs really want a member of Japan's ‘platinum generation' (or alternatively a Korean, Chinese or SE Asian star) to help their merchandising arms in East Asia and South East Asia. Personally I agree with this sentiment, (I've already mentioned Hideto Takahasi for example), but I also believe you shouldn't carry your Asian star, we need a Shinji Kagawa or Park Ji-Sung, not a Park Chu Young. There are quite a few of the 2011 U17 World Cup Japanese stars (Fumiya Hayakawa, Hideki Ishige, Takumi Minamino, Shoya Nakajima, Musashi Suzuki, Masaya Matsumoto, Daisuke Takagi and Hiroki Akino) now approaching the points in their respective careers that we should be taking a good look at them, but they're all still a long way off a meaningful role for any big club they should join. I'd sign Yuto Nagatomo or Ryo Myaichi in an instant, they appear to be the best Japanese options available at present. Keisuke Honda has probably missed his chance, but if we were to sign him I wouldn't be vehemently against it.
The Bundesliga is a good repository of Japanese talent with Hiroshi Kiyotake, Genki Omai, Takashi Inui and Takashi Usami impressing for senior teams in the Bundesliga and in the German youth leagues are Freiburg U19 and Japan U18 centre forward Kosuke Kinoshita, and FSV Frankfurt U19 winger Yuki Nakagawa. Other interesting options are 2012 Olympic squad members; Hiroki Yamada a right wingback from Jubilo Iwata, Akimi Barada a midfielder from Kashiwa Reysol and Kosuke Yamamoto a midfielder from Jubilo Iwata, Kazuya Yamamura a centre back at Kashima, Takahiro Ohgihara, Kenyu Sugimoto and Keigo Higashi. South Korean stars Heung-Min Son, Kim Bo-Kyung, Koo Ja-Cheol, Yun Suk-Young and Ki Sung-Yong should be at least considered by the scouts. This sort of development would also be important in the club's push into Asia - http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/6/2/4388300/chelsea-fcs-brand-domination-of-asia