Since arriving at the Bridge, the free kicks and raw power of Alex have made him a fan favorite. He's been a backup for the majority of his time here, but finally got his chance to break into the first choice eleven when Ricardo Carvalho was sold to Real Madrid last summer. He played well in that span, but unfortunately injured his thigh in a game against Arsenal (probably as a result of this):
Lately we've been hearing rumors that Alex is on his way out, which immediately sparked the question in my mind "Why?". We've also yet to see Alex make his debut this preseason, despite AVB fielding completely different starting elevens in both halves of both pre-season games so far. Depth was enough of an issue last year at CB that we spent big on a Champions League cup tied defender in January, and with Branislav Ivanovic likely still penciled in atop the RB depth chart, Alex is likely to begin the season as our primary backup. After the jump we'll take a closer look at Alex, and try to figure out what the club may be thinking here.
Age: Alex just turned 29 this June. Central defenders tend to have a later peak than most other outfield players, so Alex should be right in the middle of the prime years of his career. While he's not likely to improve much from what we've seen of him recently, he's also likely to not regress in the next year or two. Age really shouldn't be much of a factor in our plans with Alex.
Contract and potential transfer fee: Alex has two more years on his deal, so he'll be free to leave at the age of 31. I can't find the specifics of his pay anywhere, but as he signed his current deal in 2009 it will not negatively affect the club as far as FFP accounting is concerned. Any money received in a sale of Alex will count towards our FFP compliance however, so if we're planning a few big moves this summer this could be a factor. At the rumored 9-12 million pounds, the fee would not be an insignificant return (even for a club with very deep pockets).
Home grown status: Alex is not considered a "homegrown" player by the FA's guidelines. He currently occupies one of the 17 slots we have for players over the age of 21 who developed their game abroad. This may well be the biggest reason I can find in favor of selling Alex, as any players such as Javier Pastore or Luka Modric that we bring in will need to have a corresponding move made for them. While Alex wouldn't be my first choice to go, one has to consider the following when deciding whom to sell...
Depth: After the Luiz purchase, I noted that CB may have been the deepest position the squad had. That has changed a little since then, as Michael Mancienne has been sold and Jeffrey Bruma has been sent out on loan. We still have some very interesting depth at the position though, even if Alex is not in the picture. AVB has been using Branislav Ivanovic exclusively as a CB to this point, which leads me to believe that he's also targeting a new RB before the close of the window. We also recently saw Slobodan Rajkovic make his first appearance in a Chelsea shirt (and scored a goal which can be found here).
Rajkovic is a real lynchpin player in how our roster is going to be shaped. At 22 years old, he's likely at the point in his career where he either stays in London this season or is subject to a permanent move elsewhere. He was impressive in his loan spell at Vitesse last year, and skippered the squad with some regularity. He's certainly at least as capable a defender as any team but possibly United have as their 4th choice (and at this point in his development I'm not sure even Phil Jones is as good as Rajkovic). He's also "homegrown", as he signed with the club at the age of 16.
Behind Rajkovic, we have an impressive pair of youth who are likely not quite ready this season. Tomas Kalas and Nathaniel Chalobah are two of the top rated center back prospects in the world, but are 18 and 16 respectively. Both have looked good this summer (internationally) and in the preseason so far. In the next several years we may have some quality depth at a very young age, especially if Jeffrey Bruma blossoms in Germany. While they are a lot to be excited about, neither should feature regularly for the Blues this season (although I'd be shocked if they both didn't debut at some point). Kalas will be worth watching this spring though, as he may very well be advanced enough to pencil in as emergency cover.
If the FA hadn't applied the current roster rules, I doubt we'd even consider selling Alex. He's been a good soldier despite rarely being a first choice player throughout his time here. He's also very dependable, and offers a unique skill when he's on the pitch in the form of laser beam free kicks:
It will be interesting to see how Villas-Boas handles this, as having been with the club for such a short time he doesn't have as many ties to these players as some of our older managers would. It will also likely tell us if we're expecting to bring in a player form overseas over the age of 21, although I think it's fair to say most fans are expecting to do that anyway. Please let us know your opinion in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments section below.