Like many people do ahead of birthdays or other gift-giving holidays, Chelsea are adding items to their wishlist and hoping that some benevolent power will bequeath it to them — or in Chelsea’s case, allow the club to make the purchases for themselves.
So, as we wait for FIFA Santa Claus to swoop in on his reindeer-powered appeals verdict, we keep adding to the list. According to the Telegraph, our latest addition is Nice right-back Youcef Atal. Obviously, a move for the 22-year-old hinges on a positive outcome (suspension or delay) for the transfer ban appeals process, either from FIFA (unlikely) or CAS (more likely). And in Atal’s case, the sooner we can act, the better.
The Algerian international arrived just last summer from Algiers-based Paradou AC, by way of a season-long loan at KV Kortrijk. Despite the leap in quality from the Belgian first division to Ligue 1, the 22-year-old adapted seamlessly.
His performances for Nice, which include a hat-trick versus Guingamp in a 3-0 win last weekend while playing as a left winger, have caught the attention of various big clubs around Europe, including Chelsea, Atlético Madrid, Bayern Munich, and other unnamed sides from England, Germany, Italy and Spain.
In a scouting report on Atal for Statsbomb, Mohamed Mohamed describes him as the prototypical modern attack-first full back every team should be looking to sign.
For @StatsBomb, I wrote about Youcef Atal, why he's one of the more exciting young players in European football, and his chance of becoming one of the best fullbacks of his generation https://t.co/KYVKLlnlIV— Mohamed (@MoeSquare) January 2, 2019
There’s a lot to like with Youcef Atal, especially considering he’s already producing at a high level in his first season in a top five league. His skill set fits with the modern game and the demands put on fullbacks, and his dribbling and high value chance creation go beyond what even most modern fullbacks are capable of as he uses his athleticism in a functional way to create havoc in the final third.
It’s fair to point out that he’s been giving up an exceedingly high volume of turnovers this season, and that puts a strain on the rest of the squad to put out potential fires defensively, but the pluses have outweighed the minuses. His defensive numbers have been elite, albeit there are a couple chinks in the armor when you dive a bit deeper into the film, though there’s not much there that’s terribly worrying for his future development.
Atal’s currently rated at £35 million, but that number can certainly increase depending on the amount of interest in him this summer. And while signing Atal might be a detriment to someone like Chelsea Academy prospect Reece James, competition for places should always be expected and both should have enough versatility to be useful not just at right back. But until we know the transfer ban verdict, it’s all a moot point anyway.