Chelsea's purchase of Papy Djilobodji in the final 24 hours of the summer transfer window was greeted with much derision, skepticism, and a bit of mockery as well. Nowhere near expensive enough to qualify as a panic buy, but certainly old enough to not qualify under our usual young talent acquisition umbrella operation (even fellow deadline-day arrival Michael Hector's pushing that), Djilobodji was then left off our Champions League squad, to make his purchase an even more curious affair.
While Djilobodji's was a virtual unknown to the vast majority of fans and media and perhaps Jose Mourinho himself, too, it would appear that Chelsea, through our French scout Guy Hillion (who, perhaps not coincidentally, apparently hails from the area and lives in Nantes, which is where Djilo had been playing for the last half decade) had been tracking the center back for over a year. Here are a couple relevant tweets from December 2013, for example:
#CFC scout Guy Hillion was at Marseille vs Nantes on Friday night, reportedly watching Nantes' Senegalese defender Papy Djilobodji.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) December 9, 2013
Hillion could've of course been watching any number of targets, including often-linked Giannelli Imbula (who moved to Porto this summer), but reports emerging over the last couple days in France would seem to confirm that Hillion and Chelsea were very much aware of and following the 26-year-old center back for longer than just the final couple days of the summer.
It is true that no one claims Djilobodji was at the top of the Blues' list of center back targets, but he was definitely on the list in some form or fashion. RMC claim that he was third behind a couple more expensive targets (Stones and, perhaps, Garay or Marquinhos?). Others claim he was third behind more expensive English targets (Stones and ?). Either way, it sounds like Djilobodji was the cut-rate fallback option.
"Michael Emenalo, technical director of the London club, confirmed the interest explaining that Chelsea needed a [left-sided] defenseman, big and hard on the man."
From the highlights we've seen, Djilo certain qualifies as big center back and a hard tackler. And he does fill a need as a defender who's actually, naturally left footed. He may not come with a huge pedigree or a huge transfer fee, but perhaps he'll surprise us all in the end.