The Nathan Aké rumor mill is gathering a bit of momentum with less than a month to go until January and at least two of the top four teams possibly looking for defensive reinforcements.
While both Pep Guardiola and Frank Lampard have stopped short of admitting this publicly — which would help no one — Guardiola did hint that if they can make an impact signing that would help them in the long-term, they would do it. Meanwhile, Lampard is supposedly evaluating Antonio Rüdiger’s prospects (health-wise, mostly), while also running the rule over center backs not named Fikayo Tomori (though that bit is mostly my own conjecture).
But world class center backs are in short supply even in the best markets, and January is never the best market. AFC Bournemouth’s Nathan Aké is probably as good as it gets. He may be relatively short for the position, but he’s proven homegrown quality in the Premier League. Whether that’s quality that could markedly improve the team and worth a £40m investment is debatable of course, but it would appear that Chelsea believe so. He’s one of our own, after all, and these days, we believe in our own.
And we’re not alone in that regard. According to Sky Sports, Manchester City have joined in this potential pursuit of the 24-year-old former Chelsea youth prospect who’s been a key player for the Cherries for the past 2.5 seasons.
City were apparently sniffing around in the summer already as they tried to replace Vincent Kompany, though Chelsea obviously have the rumored £40m buyback clause, which should give us an advantage — assuming that Aké would want to come back.
For what it’s worth, earlier this season Chelsea celebrity-scout Piet de Visser, who loves to talk about how Chelsea messed up with Kevin De Bruyne (he’s not wrong, obviously), already urged the club to re-sign our former prospect in a wide-ranging and quite open interview that was the talk of the town for a hot minute.
“Aké should be playing at Chelsea. He’s so good. How often doesn’t he score with his head? He has timing and insight. I hope they buy him back. That boy is crazy about Chelsea. And he has played with Lampard.”
-Piet de Visser; source: De Volkskrant via Google Translate
To answer De Visser’s question, Aké has scored 11 times in 133 Premier League matches (for Chelsea, Watford, and mostly Bournemouth), at least 6 of which were headers, including the last 4 in a row.
But if we do bring him back (or add any other center back), we’d need him to help shore up the defensive line itself first and foremost.