Most of us expected one of the Chelsea strikers to be leaving this summer. For many fans, Torres was the one who was supposed to go, but it is Demba Ba who has been connected with a possible transfer to Anzi. As the article on WAGNH argues, the rumour may have some factual basis underneath. Even if it does not, Ba's transfer makes the most sense, as he didn't cost all that much in the first place and his physical build and style of play somewhat resemble Lukaku's. Regardless of the accuracy of the rumour, it would seem that Ba is on his way out of Chelsea.
If Ba were to go, as seems likely, it would leave us in the market for a striker. At the moment, it is debatable which position we most need with some arguing for a true CDM (though that need may have been reduced by the purchase of MVG) and others for a CB, but the sale of Ba would undoubtedly set up a need for a striker. Taking the youth argument out (yes there are youth players that could come into the team in that position, but unlike City's John Guidetti, none of them are really ready), it would make sense that a marquis striker purchase will be shortly incoming. With that in mind I've laid out several of the players that would constitute a big name striker signing, players we've been linked with off and on for most of the last few months.
Wayne Rooney, Robert Lewandowski, and Edison Cavani are all fantastic players, and there is no question that any one of them would make a great addition to our team. My goal here is to compare their playing ability and what we need and what options are most feasible for the team. So here goes:
All three players have a fantastic goal scoring record, though Rooney's goal tally was muted this season due to the arrival and dominance of RVP. Of the three, Cavani has the best recent goal per game ratio of .72 gpg (since his 2009 transfer to Palermo), with Rooney at .58 and Lewandowski at .54 (tallies include international games and cup games) during the same period. As we all know, Rooney is capable of performing on the big stage (at least for club) and in the big games, as demonstrated by winners against Man City, Chelsea, and others. Lewandowski is capable of performance of the highest level, scoring five goals in three games against Real Madrid this past season and putting up 10 goals in 13 champions league appearances this season. However, in the previous two seasons with BVB, he has appeared against Bayern five times and scored only once. Cavani has a mixed record against big teams. He scored five goals in eight champions league games in the 2011-12 campaign, including all three of Napoli's goals as they tied and beat Man City. In nine appearances against the big three in Italy (Juve, Milan, Inter) in the past two seasons , Cavani has scored four goals, but all four have come against Inter, the weakest of the three. Any of these players would work as a pure goal scorer on the team that Mou is assembling.
Assists and Team Play:
Of the trio, Rooney has the best assist numbers, both in ratio and totals, for the past season. This makes a lot of sense, given that he played more as an attacking midfielder than as a centre forward or striker. Rooney had 13 assists in 33 games, for a ratio of .39 assists per game. Cavani had five assists in 45 games and Lewandowski seven in 44. All three link up well with the midfielders behind them, and all three are able to bring other players into the game: Rooney with RVP this season and Ronaldo/Tevez in 07-08, Cavani helping Hamsik/Lavezzi to post good numbers, Lewandowski linking with Reus and Gotze to dominate teams, for example. Of the three, however, Lewandowski does the least defensive duties. Rooney, should he lose possession, will chase back like a madman until he regains the ball, or one of his teammates does. Cavani, though he plays as the main striker, defends corners and, in the 11-12 season, took up the defensive role of the left winger as Lavezzi was left up top to pose a danger for a counter attack. Within the framework of the 4-2-3-1, any of the three would fit perfectly into the main striker role. However, of the three Rooney would, in my opinion, be the best player for setting up opportunities for Hazard/Mata/Schurrle/KDB/Oscar instead of just finishing, with Lewandowski after that (he integrated well with Reus and Gotze, who perform similar roles to Hazard and Mata).
Lewandowski is a pure striker. He's not super fast but he's not slow either, he has the skill to beat players when necessary, the tactical awareness to make perfect runs, and the strength to hold off an opponent. His tactical flexibility is limited, however, and during his time at BVB he has never played with a true second striker. Rooney is almost the opposite, a master of tactical flexibility. With RVP at United, Rooney has adapted well into the slightly deeper role afforded him, and although he would prefer to play up top, he consistently performs well in the shadow striker or forward midfield role. In the 07-08 and 08-09 seasons, Rooney played on the right side of a front three with Tevez and Ronaldo, a role which he adapted to extremely well and one that facilitated United's dominance in the league. Cavani has played the winger role as well, and that was in fact the position he was purchased for. With Uruguay in the recent confederations cup, Cavani lined up in a front three alongside Forlan and Suarez and played extremely well, though he was guilty at times of drifting from the game and disappearing entirely. Tactically speaking, should Mourinho decide at any point to put on a second striker (he may not start two, but two will play at some point during the season), both Cavani and Rooney would work well with either Torres or Lukaku. Lewandowski might do well in such a scenario as well, but he also may not, as he hasn't played in such a formation recently.
Style of Play:
In terms of style of play, Lewandowski plays in a similar, though more developed and more well rounded, way to Lukaku. Lewan's runs are more sophisticated, but his build is similar, and he does well to hold up the play while getting other people involved. He is not a fast forward, and so, similarly to RVP, uses well timed runs and superb finishing skills to score his goals. Cavani, the fastest of the three, is still quite a gifted finisher and makes good runs. He is very useful on the counter, and can also attack from the wing and cut in. Cavani is gifted at bringing balls down from the air as well as hold up play. Rooney tends to rely more on other players, as he doesn't have the speed to push past defenders nor the skill to beat players the way that other forwards do. However, Rooney is the master of the offensive running and attack co-ordination. Cavani and Lewandowski offer extreme danger on set pieces due to their height, while Cavani can actually take a good free kick (see Cavani's free kick against Italy here). Rooney's runs are dangerous, but on set pieces, a Chelsea strength since the last Mou reign began, he cannot influence the game nearly as much as Lewandowski or Cavani.
The final consideration is cost. With Napoli holding out for a reported £53 million, Cavani's transfer seems to have hit a stone wall. PSG have been rumored to be approaching that amount, but it is an exorbitant price to pay for a player who is unproven in the Premier league. Strikers coming from Italy have tended to under-perform in the Premier League (with the exception of Zola, look at Crespo, Shevchenko, etc), and at such a high cost, he may not be worth it. Should Rooney decide to leave Old Trafford (personally I think he will, because the United fans are fed up with his antics off the field and he won't have the striking role he wants) he would be available for between £25 and £35 million, a more realistic price. Lewandowski is apparently available for that kind of price as well: seeing as he is in the last year of his contract at BVB, while they don't want to sell him to Bayern for obvious reasons, the board there would be hard pressed to turn down that kind of money from abroad. In addition, as DavWo reminded me in a comment, player wages need to be taken into account. Rooney, should he move, would constitute at least £250k per week and likely more, making him among our highest paid players. Lewandowski would be the cheapest, as I believe he is currently at around 60k/week and would probably be between 100 and 120 per week, while Cavani would as well.
All three players would be fantastic acquisitions for Chelsea. Having said that, should he decide to go I think we should go for Rooney. While I don't necessarily think he would be a better fit for our team than either Cavani or Lewandowski, I would much rather have him at the Bridge than at the Emirates, and with a young child he is unlikely to move abroad, making either Arsenal or Chelsea the only teams he would realistically join. I think it likely that should Rooney go, Moyes and SAF will use the money on other transfers, one of which could be Lewandowski to Old Trafford. However, United is chalk full of striking talent (RVP, Chicharito, Wellbeck) and has other glaring holes (CDM, CB, future LB) in the team that Moyes may decide to purchase elsewhere. I don't mind Cavani going to Real or PSG, and between the two I think PSG is more likely given Madrid's likely spending on Suarez. However, at the current buyout price I don't think Cavani is going anywhere, and I could see him staying at Napoli until January or next summer. Lewandowski is more of a concern for BVB, as if he doesn't go in this window his price will cut significantly in January, and if he doesn't go at that time then he'll go on a free to Bayern. Having said that, they seem happy enough to keep him. What do you all think? Who should we go for, and who represents best value for money?
For various reasons, I decided not to include Hulk, Dzeko, or Ibrahimovic in my analysis. With Tevez at Juventus now, it seems unlikely that City will be selling a supersub striker anytime soon. And Hulk is overrated in my opinion: since his star season at Porto three years ago, at which time he was surrounded by world class talent (Falcao, Moutinho, Rodriguez, etc) he hasn't made much of himself, and hasn't really performed well. Ibra doesn't look to be moving anytime soon, and even if he did, Abranovic's policy of only signing players on one year deals once they pass thirty would seem to be a rather large drawback. In addition, Zlatan is on a huge wage packet which is accounted post tax, and is therefore unlikely in the extreme to be moving anywhere.