It seems like our football universe is centered on Italy these days. In the previous two seasons, it was Antonio Conte and players we’ve brought in from the Boot, such as Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rüdiger. Nowadays, it’s Maurizio Sarri coming from Napoli, Álvaro Morata in the sights of AC Milan and three Juventus players, Daniele Rugani, Gonzalo Higuaín and Mattia Caldara, all wanted by Chelsea.
And now it’s Tiémoué Bakayoko’s turn. As AC Milan rebuild their club under new ownership, with American hedge fund Elliott sacking top management and promising to invest, they’re in the middle of all the hot transfer chatter. They’ve made moves on Morata, they’re talking to Juventus about swapping Leonardo Bonucci for Higuaín ... and they want to beef-up their midfield.
According to Gianluca Di Marzio, their preferred target is Red Bull Salzburg’s Diadie Samassékou, a holding midfielder whose main attribute is ball distribution. If they can’t get him, then they’d like Bakayoko (Ed.note: who’s not a holding midfielder nor is all that great at ball distribution, but the rumor mill tends not to care about such technicalities, which aren’t really technicalities, but you get the point).
Di Marzio doesn’t offer any hints as to the nature of a deal, whether it would be a loan or a purchase. This is a good place to mention that the rest of the footballing world senses an opportunity to grab Bakayoko, too, as BVB, Sevilla, and Inter are reportedly sniffing around.
Baka’s in an interesting place in his career. He started his first season in England with a bang, imploded badly thereafter, but put together a handful of strong appearances at the tail end of the season. It was thought that with a year under his belt, the 23-year-old would bring out his best form this time around.
But the world moves on without us. One new football philosophy due to our customary managerial changes, and suddenly it’s hard to tell where he stands at Chelsea these days. Having spent £36 million to get him, you’d imagine that the Blues are invested in giving him a chance to prove himself.
His sole outing under Sarri, as a second-half substitute against Perth Glory, was solid but not dominant. But if the rumors are true that the new gaffer wants to buy an additional midfielder, then it might not just be Danny Drinkwater who’s playing in a different shirt come August 10th.
This Saturday’s second outing under Sarri, against Inter in Nice, may give us a bigger clue not only about how well Bakayoko is adjusting to an entirely new style of play, but also how much he fits into Sarri’s vision of his team. It may also be the chance for him to prove that he still deserves a shot in Stamford Bridge, or draw even more interest from outsiders looking to bolster their midfield.