In the last year Chelsea have seemingly gone from being a club that bought expensive talent in their prime to a club looking to shrewdly secure top young talent on the verge of breaking out. Rumors out of Chile recently suggest that we're again looking to do the latter, with the potential target being 22 year old Eduardo Vargas. According to any number of sources out of Chile we are nearing an agreement in the vicinity of 10 million which will see Vargas remain at his current club, Universidad de Chile, for the remainder of the 2011/2012 season and move to London in the summer.
For those of you not familiar, Vargas has been an absolute monster so far this year. Since the start of 2011 he's found the back of the net 25 times and assisted on 17 more occasions, stats that are even more sensational considering he's not a center forward. He's been the best player in the Chilean league as his club has built a fairly commanding lead and become one of the best in South America, recently leading his club to the semi-finals of the Copa Sudamericana where Vargas has been averaging almost a goal per game throughout the competition.
Vargas turned 22 several weeks ago, and the 5'9" attacker is about as versatile a player as you'll find. He's playedpredominantly as a support striker or as a right winger, but he's got first team experience in basically every forward and midfield position imaginable. At this point I'd say his best deployment is as a wide forward who likes to cut inside and attack the goal, but it's hard to say for sure. In that regard he's similar to countryman Alexis Sanchez, but Vargas is far more direct in his play.
Physically Vargas is an interesting prospect. He's gifted with absolutely world class pace, balance, change of direction, and acceleration. There are very few players anywhere that can match his natural blend of these assets, and with his fairly direct style he could be a nightmare against pressing teams or a high line. He's a decent leaper, but since he's not overly large and not really noted for his strength he'll never likely be a serious threat in the air. He's also noted for an exceptional work rate, something that seems to be a favored trait of Villas-Boas.
Technically Vargas is also intriguing. His most renowned ability currently is his finishing. While he's better with his right than with his left, there is basically nothing to criticize with either foot. He's also got a knack for accurately heading home, although his size and strength will somewhat limit his effectiveness in getting to higher crosses. He's got solid if unspectacular footwork, ball skills, and ground passing. His crossing is still a bit of a work in progress, but it's far better today than it was a year ago. Defensively Vargas is a work in progress, but his work rate would seem to indicate that he'll be passable with some more experience. There's little doubt that at this point Vargas is best suited to the attack as his skillset is definitely best suited to going forward. His combination of physical traits and skills remind me an awful lot of Pato, although he's far less tested at this point.
As always, here's a little teaser for those of you that haven't watched him. There's not as much video of the Chilean League as I might like, but you get the idea what he looks like this way at least.
Vargas does not yet possess a EU passport, so getting a work permit in England is still an issue. He's already established himself as a regular in the Chilean national side though, so this summer's WC qualifications ought to have him in a position to be granted one without much effort. Largely because of that, I'd assume any January purchase will likely entail Vargas remaining in Chile through the remainder of this season. This would make sense for his current club as well, as they have real aspirations of winning the Copa Sudamericana.
The price tag for Vargas that I've been hearing is anywhere between 10 and 12 million pounds. If that's the case, I'd be extremely happy to bring him aboard. While there are always questions about how guys will handle the step up in class, Vargas plays with a style that I think should translate well to the higher level of competition. He'll never qualify as homegrown unfortunately, so any move for the youngster will have to be accompanied by a player leaving. While some feel he's a ways from contributing in Europe, I would be surprised if Vargas took more than a few months to become an established regular. I really like this kid, so I've got my fingers crossed that we close this deal fairly quickly. Feel free to leave your thoughts below...