As we enter the second summer of The Happy One, it looks like there will once again be no shortage of rumors linking the members of Mourinho's zealot army - franchised across many European cities - with a move back to the mothership. Last summer we had the likes of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sami Khedira. This summer, it's Tiago kicking us off.
Though Tiago and The Special One only shared one season together at Chelsea, the versatile midfielder played a key role in getting our first league title in 50 years. Chelsea then upgraded him into Michael Essien and discarded Tiago at a loss to Lyon to anchor the best midfield in France for a couple years. Those were heady days for the young man, and while he has managed to recover his career in Spain after failing rather impressively at Juventus, his best days are long behind him.
That's not to say he's a bad player. Depending on individual tastes, he might even rank as high as #2 in the current Chelsea midfield hierarchy. Though then I'd argue that the gap from #2 to #3 (one of Lampard, Mikel, Ramires, Van Ginkel - your choice) would be a very, very small one. Tiago's brand of physical yet technical and smart play is a perfect fit for the Premier League, or any league for that matter, but I doubt he'd dominate in the air or on the ground as much as he seems to in Spain. He can pick a pass - he always could - and is always good for a couple spectacular long range efforts per season. So if Marca are correct, we might just find out how the latest incarnation of Jirí Jarošík, Steve Sidwell, or Raul Meireles would fare in today's English game.
The problem is, if these rumors prove to be true, we'd be making the silliest, most useless move of the summer. It would be a move without much common sense, and worse, perhaps a symptom of yet another worthless transfer window when it comes to the Chelsea midfield (R.I.P. January 2014). And worse than all of that, it would once again fly in the face of our supposed intention of making our new-found managerial stability count by looking to build from within a bit more than in the recent past.
Now obviously some of this is conjecture. The summer has just begun and almost all the best players and all our World Class objects of desire are at the World Cup and thus largely unavailable as transfer rumor fodder. We don't know what Emenalo and Mourinho may be thinking and planning. One would assume there is a plan, and even though Emenalo has quite a record of failing to upgrade the Chelsea midfield, Mourinho's presence did seem to bring about a change in January with the arrival of Nemanja Matić. Both men should be trying to win (now) - Mourinho has stated as much publicly even (unlike last summer) - and should be making all transfer moves with that number one priority in mind. (If they're not, we riot.)
All that being said, here's my problem with signing Tiago or making a Tiago-esque signing in general. It's the same problem I had with signing Samuel Eto'o. At best, it's a sideways move with a barely discernible short term and certainly no long term point to it. He is not a player frequently talked up as one of the best in the world and he's not a hot prospect over whom all the biggest clubs are fawning. He doesn't actually solve an immediate need or provide the potential for unearthing that once-in-a-generation diamond.
Last summer, we decided to tread water in the striker department and let our relationship with Romelu Lukaku take the hit as collateral damage. That all may pay off this summer if we get a perhaps previously unavailable center forward. In the long run, it may just be worth it. But would our season have turned out all that differently with Lukaku instead of Eto'o as one of our three strikers? Are we willing to play that same game again with, say, Marco van Ginkel this year? Or a Lewis Baker? Or a Josh McEachran (again and again)? Or a Nathaniel Chalobah? Or an Oriol Romeu (since apparently we do want him back at least for an quick look-see)?
In the best case scenario, Tiago comes in for a season, replaces, say Mikel, and does a job as the third- or fourth- or fifth-choice midfielder behind Matić and World Class Player To Be Named Later. That's a job any of the other young players are perfectly capable of doing as well. No, they won't be playing week-in and week-out. Considering the crapshoot of the loan system and the eventual difficulty of reintegrating the loanee success stories, I'm not sure that matters as much as we'd like to think. Maybe it's time to try a different path with a couple of them. The U21 matches would still be available for match fitness if needed and they would be training day-in and day-out with the other top players and coaches and at the top facilities at Cobham. And we might just happen upon our diamond.
In the worst case scenario, Tiago is it, the midfielder of our dreams, shaggy hair replaced by shaggy hair. Mourinho goes back to cuddling Ramires and he goes back to personally making sure that Premier League whistle- and card-makers don't slack on their jobs. Van Ginkel follows in Romeu's footsteps. Lampard and Tiago will both start at one point, and we'll get to appreciate what a combined age of 69 looks like in a two-man Premier League midfield with aspirations of a title. Oh, and also, we riot.