Maurizio Sarri is set to become the new Chelsea head coach, someday soon, which means that Chelsea can finally move on to transfer business as well, someday soon. As per the usual tradition, a new coach will be linked with many of his former players. We’ve already seen this with Sarri in terms of Elseid Hysaj or Kalidou Koulibaly. Now it’s Dries Mertens’ turn. According to the Telegraph, Sarri want to bring his very reliable winger-turned-forward to the Bridge if and when he completes his switch to Chelsea.
Mertens is often used as one of the best examples of Sarri working his player development magic, turning an average wide forward into a prolific goalscorer capable of making up for the absence of Gonzalo Higuaín. In fact, since 2016, when Sarri began to train and utilize Mertens as an out-and-out centre-forward, he’s scored more goals than Higuain (46 vs. 40 in the league, 56 vs. 55 in all competitions).
Problem is, Mertens is old — 31, to be exact — and not cheap. Conte himself was apparently denied twice in requesting the club to get him. His £24.5 million release clause expired last week (without anyone paying it) and considering how troublesome it has been for Chelsea to handle Sarri’s negotiation in a similar predicament, we can only imagine the amount of nonsense we’d have to wade through to get one of Aurelio de Laurentiis’ most valuable players.
Sarri’s idea would be to have Mertens play the right wing (as a possible replacement for Willian), but according to the Telegraph’s report, Chelsea actually have younger targets in mind. This used to be the club’s strict m.o. under Michael Emenalo, but had slowly veered away from it during the tenures of Mourinho and Conte. A return to smart(er) player acquisitions would be very welcome — despite that meaning disagreement already with the new head coach, who’s supposed to be fairly easy-going as far as transfer demands are concerned — especially if the Telegraph’s claimed shortlist of Anthony Martial and WAGNH Towers favorite Christian Pulisic is any true indication.
The report also mentions Chelsea hoping to get a deal done for Nice midfielder Jean Michäel Seri, which is one of the few transfer rumors that has grown beyond just a tenuous link so far this summer.
Getting Seri, who was reportedly getting very close to moving to Napoli, and one of Martial and Pulisic would make for a pretty good transfer window, especially if we manage to retain our Belgian stars while replacing depth names such as Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta with better or more promising players. Perhaps even Academy-grown players! (Hello, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.)
So maybe even if Sarri doesn’t get Mertens, Chelsea’s summer might still turn out alright.