After reportedly agreeing to allow Juan Mata to join Manchester United and transferring Kevin De Bruyne to Wolfsburg, Chelsea have suddenly become a bit thin in an area that was once a real strength. Somewhat surprisingly, we've been finding ourselves linked to 21-year old Mohamed Salah as a replacement.
Salah is one whom Chelsea fans have probably seen more than most, as he's started each of the four matches Chelsea have played with Basel during the past 12 months. He was probably Basel's best player over the two-legged Europa semifinal last season, while he was easily the best player on the pitch in each of our group stage fixtures with the Swiss champions this year. He has scored three times in his four matches against us, and any Chelsea fans that recall those matches at all won't be able to help but have been impressed.
Salah stands 5'9" tall, and won't turn 22 until the summer. He's got excellent pace, balance, and explosiveness, and is much better with the ball on his left foot than his right. He's doesn't play an overly physical game though, and is pretty lousy in the air.
The Egyptian international primarily operates from the right side, in the sort of wide forward role we used to see from Salomon Kalou. He stays fairly wide for an inverted forward, even if he's not hugging the sideline to the extent that the traditional winger does.
Defensively, Salah appears to be a willing enough worker to satisfy Jose Mourinho. He's certainly not fantastic in his defensive work, but at least the willingness to press early and track back seems to be there.
The transition to the Premier League could be difficult for Salah, as the quality of the game in Switzerland isn't anywhere near the level it will be if he were to join Chelsea. His remarkable performances against us this season suggest that he's more than capable in that regard, though to be fair, we weren't playing particularly well in either of those contests. Chelsea would be a big jump, and he'd probably be nothing but quality depth for the majority of this season.
On it's own, Salah for a sum of between £8-12 million would seem a very reasonable deal. He's probably ready to be a part of the Chelsea first team right now, and he's not the sort of player stylistically that the club currently have in abundance. There's also little reason to believe that his value won't be considerably higher in short order, much like we saw with Kevin De Bruyne. There would also be the benefit of seemingly hijacking Liverpool's move for him at the last second, something that would surely lead to a Willian-esque song.
If the Blues hadn't decided to sell Juan Mata to Manchester United so recently, this potential move would probably be drawing generally positive reviews. He's obviously not nearly as good a player right now, but he'd be an upgrade to Victor Moses. I'm not sure there's a real need to spend on this sort of player with the on-loan options we have available, but he's certainly a quality player that quite a few teams would have interest in.
Unfortunately, any move for Salah would likely forever be linked to Mata, and how fans respond to that would probably come down to whether or not Chelsea add either another fantastic central midfielder or a long overdue striker.
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