Chelsea surprised just about everyone today when they announced a signing the media hadn't picked up on at all, bringing 18-year old Stipe Perica into the fold at Stamford Bridge. So what is it that caught Chelsea's eye with the player that convinced them to give him a contract?
Perica caught the eye of many at this year's FIFA U20 World Cup, but he was one of the more highly regarded prospects in the competition before it ever got underway. Let's take a look at what The Mirror had to say about him in advance of the U20 World Cup, when they named him as one of their ten players to watch:
For all the flamboyance of the other players in this list, the directness and aerial ability of Stipe Perica will take many by surprise in Turkey. Another novice, Perica turns 18 whilst taking part at the World Cup, and has been mightily impressive in his first season in professional football.
With eight goals from just 14 starts in his debut season, the youngster has had to carry his side at times, and has shown he can handle such responsibility with ease. He is a major contender to win the tournament golden boot thanks to his natural striking instincts, and with Manchester City touted as potential suitors, he will be hoping he finds he scoring touch.
Perica managed a very impressive 167 minutes per goal at the senior level as a 17-year old, which is a far better return than that guy currently wearing #9 at Chelsea. While Croatia isn't exactly one of the top leagues in Europe, he certainly did enough to have Spurs fans taking about him.
He also impressed at the U20 World Cup, and while he only scored one goal in his three games, his overall play was generally excellent. Croatia was eventually eliminated by Cristian Cuevas and his Chile side, after topping their group with 7 points.
Outside of his participation in that tournament, I haven't really seen a ton of our new signing. There are certain things three games can make abundantly clear though, especially when the player is large enough that you can't help but focus on him anyway.
Stipe is listed at 6'3" tall, but I'm tempted to say he's actually grown since that measurement based on a side by side comparison with some of his teammates. He's a big boy, and he's strong enough to hold his own against the best of what the Premier League has to offer.
He uses that strength and height effectively in the box as well, providing a tremendous target from both open play and set pieces. He was also a big part of the Croatians set piece defense, something we were always spoiled by with Didier Drogba.
He's not the elite athlete that Romelu Lukaku is, but he doesn't look like speed and mobility will be issues going forward either. We'll need to pay attention to that when he actually gets out on the pitch at Cobham, but he looks like he's a pretty mobile player.
While his size and athleticism appear to be strong suits, he has a long way to go yet in his overall development. He's very much right foot dominant, to the point where I'm yet to see a really decent attempt from him using his left. He's also not particularly versatile form a positional standpoint at this point, as his passing and dribbling leave something to be desired.
I'd be pretty surprised if Perica starts the season on loan, as his raw nature would probably mean that he's got plenty to gain from training at Cobham. At least starting the season with the U21 side ought to give him a chance to settle, as well as spending some time working on the technical side of his game.
All in all, I'm thrilled with this buy for Chelsea. It's impossible to say if Perica will ever develop enough to actually play for a top club, but he's already got the physical tools to cause defenders trouble if he does. Assuming the price is fairly reasonable, there's almost no risk involved with the signing. There's a lot of potential upside though, and it will be a lot of fun to watch.
More from We Ain't Got No History:
- Chelsea FC sign 18-year-old Stipe Perica
- Report: Lucas Piazon could join Chelsea pair at Vitesse
- Henrique Hilario signs new Chelsea deal
- Chelsea help save non-league side