Is Zenit St. Petersburg defender Nicolas Lombaerts the answer to Chelsea's depth problems at centre back? The 25 year old central defender's standout performances against known Chelsea target Roman Lukkaku have in the Europa League have led to some speculation that he may have found himself on the Blues' radar. Chelsea scouts were in attendance to watch Belgian striker Lukkaku in both of Anderlecht's group stage matches against Zenit, but instead of being treated to a showpiece from the man who many believe is destined to assume Didier Drogba's mantle, they saw him shackled by compatriot Lombaerts.
It’s nice to be talked about by such clubs, but it’s the first I’ve heard about it. But if Romelu Lukaku is being considered by Chelsea and Real Madrid, then their scouts will have also seen that twice I had him in my pocket.
-Nicolas Lombaerts. Source: Daily Mail
Lombaerts, who has been capped nine times for Belgium since his debut as a 21 year old, would presumably be available for transfer despite recently signing a four-year deal with the Russian club. He favours the left side, and so would be able to cover for John Terry in case another extended absence from the captain, and he's capable of pushing the ball forward more effectively than a pure defender like Gary Cahill, another rumoured target. With a price tag expected to be in the neighbourhood of £8M, he won't exactly come cheap.
I'm not sure I buy this one, to be honest. Lombaerts is a good defender, but he's in Cahill's price range and the Bolton defender has a number of advantages over him, namely that he's not cup-tied* in Europe, he'd fit in as a home-grown player, and that he's already been playing in the Premier League. We've seen a left-footed Belgian centreback fare well with Arsenal, but I definitely wouldn't bet on Lombaerts following in Thomas Vermaelen's footsteps.
*Strictly speaking, if Chelsea acquired Lombaerts, they could field him in the Champions League, but then they wouldn't be able to play another Europa League participant there for the rest of the season.