With the news that Daniel Sturridge is all but out at Chelsea, it's becoming even more obvious that the Blues are gearing up to add a centre forward (or two) come January. And the striker whose name's on everyone's lips at the moment is Atletico Madrid's pet weapon of mass destruction, Radamel Falcao.
That we're being linked to Falcao is no surprise. The Colombian's one of the best centre forwords in the world, a position where we're desperately weak, and although he's doing very well at Atletico he'd make a lot more money at one of Europe's top sides. And Chelsea are the only club with both the capacity to pay Falcao a top-tier salary and the obvious need for an ace striker. It's a match made in heaven.
That Atletico would probably rather not sell -- they're currently second in La Liga and looking good to make the Champions League if he stays -- is neither here nor there, as Falcao has a €60 million (£49 million) buyout clause in his contract and if Chelsea want to pay it there's not a whole lot that they can do to stop him leaving. Given that, it's very, very easy to connect some dots, and we're already seeing rumours that the two parties have agreed to a January move.
I wouldn't buy into said rumours just yet, of course. They're completely plausible but not coming from any reliable sources at the moment, so we'll have to wait and see. But for now, let's talk about why Chelsea should and shouldn't do the move. Negatives first, I think...
Chelsea should be dissuaded from buying Falcao because of:
- Cost. At 49 million plus a contract that'll end up in the region of 200,000 per week over five and a half years, acquiring Falcao would represent an annual hit of 19.3 million on Chelsea's books. Selling Daniel Sturridge for 12 million lightens that load for now, but 19.3 million per season should be enough to give everyone second thoughts. For that much money, a player has to give world-class performances for the entire length of their contract.
- Age. Chelsea's recent acquisitions have all been significantly younger than Falcao. The likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar, the Blues big-money summer acquisitions, are still several years away from their prime. Falcao, meanwhile, will turn 27 in February, so there's little change of recouping the investment via sell-on (lowering the amortised value of the transfer fee via a contract extension is probably out too). It's not really Chelsea's current style.
- Risk. I think this one gets horribly overstated due to what happened with Torres. Falcao is, at present, probably the best pure centre forward in the world. That he's unproven in the Premier League means little -- he has the strength and the style of play to succeed in England -- and his recent form is incredible. Torres, meanwhile, had a pretty miserable 2010 before we bought him, and his career trajectory was pretty clearly going south. I wouldn't fret overmuch about this one.
Chelsea should buy Falcao because:
- Everything else. The Blues are in need of an elite centre forward to take full advantage of the work their attacking midfielders put in, and Falcao fits the bill to a tee. Unlike other possible buys, he's not just a decent current option with potential for greatness -- he's already world class and would immensely improve the current side.
Whether or not the two aspects of the possible transfer balance out is a matter of personal taste. At present, I think I'd prefer to upgrade at both striker and central midfield, and a combination buy of, say, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (St. Etienne) and Benat (Real Betis) would strike me as preferable for going all in on Falcao. But that said, I could be easily convinced otherwise. And I'd expect Chelsea to be very, very tempted to make a move this winter.