Could Chelsea go all Willian on Manchester United with Luke Shaw?

Richard Heathcote

Rumours that Manchester United's deal to snap up Southampton and England left back Luke Shaw are intensifying day by day, and Chelsea's interest in the 18-year-old has long been documented. I don't think the current murmurs that Chelsea are trying to hijack the deal are anything but putting two and two together, but it's an interesting though and sometimes two and two does indeed make four. So let's think about the ramifications of Shaw moving to Stamford Bridge.

Why this would make sense

If you don't think playing a right back out of position is the long-term solution to Chelsea's left back problems and you take the not-unreasonable approach that neither Ryan Bertrand nor Patrick van Aanholt are acceptable answers, the club needs to replace the departing Ashley Cole not with a stopgap but with someone who can man the position for years. Shaw is already a playing at an extraordinarily high level for a teenager, and should be expected to get better with further experience.

Buying a left back would also allow Cesar Azpilicueta to shift back to a more natural position. His attacking game is somewhat stifled by playing on the wrong side, and although he's performed magnificently as a left back, adding Azpilicueta to the attack on the right side (and then getting Shaw on the left) should be a significant upgrade on the current state of affairs at fullback.

Shaw at Chelsea would also mean that Shaw wouln't be anywhere else. The Blues have been the home of England's first-choice left back for the better part of a decade, and Manchester United are hoping to usurp that title by bringing him to Old Trafford. Hijacking the move would be endless fun, and it's not like that's a strategy that hasn't worked for us in the past.

Oh, and he's a Chelsea fan, and if signed this summer would end up counting as homegrown in both the Premier League and Champions League.

Why this wouldn't make sense

Luke Shaw is an incredibly high-profile player thanks to his age, his role in Southampton's strong season, and his nationality. Consequently he's enormously expensive. The transfer fees being mooted are downright obscene -- £30 million for a teenager fullback is ridiculous -- and the wages apparently on offer from United are similarly absurd. If you're on £100,000 a week before you turn 19, you're going to be enormously expensive forever.

Put simply, Shaw represents, at least in footballing terms, highly limited bang for the buck. If you accept that we must upgrade at left back, which I think is disputable, Shaw probably shouldn't be your first choice unless you have essentially unlimited funds. There are excellent players floating around to fill in, and although Alberto Moreno and Ricardo Rodriguez don't have Shaw's branding and price tag, they're not far behind him in terms of contribution.

There's also a fair amount of skepticism about what Shaw will end up being. Even a superstar left back isn't worth that much, and right now Shaw's not really a superstar. If you don't have complete faith in his potential, dropping a significant chunk of our summer transfer budget on him looks distinctly unwise.

Verdict

Chelsea have holes to fill this summer. The most pressing are in midfield and at centre forward, and the calibre of players the club is targetting there means that we need as much cash on hands as possible. If we can secure world-class players at those positions and still have money left for Shaw, great. Hijack away. But the pursuit of a left back (remember, Shaw would be replacing the Players' Player of the Season) should not be allowed to distract from the bigger concerns.

It's all about spending efficiently. Would Shaw be a good buy? Yes. But only if he's the third-biggest purchase this window.

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