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Gabriel Magalhães signing ‘almost complete’ but is he the fix for Chelsea’s defensive blues?

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Rumored, scouted, analyzed, reported

Lille OSC v Olympique Lyonnais - Ligue 1 Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Lille’s Gabriel Magalhães is a name we have heard this year already in the Chelsea rumor mill, and if fresh reports are to be believed, there may be something more substantial in the whispers than just a passing interest.

Further rumors of Chelsea’s interest appeared in Duncan Castles’ podcast, which have since been picked up by other sources, so there may be some transfer work going on in the background.

According to a tweet by French journalist Manu Lonjon, Chelsea have ‘almost completed’ a deal for the 22-year-old. Other clubs, such as Arsenal and Everton are also interested, but Chelsea appear to be at the front of the queue. The reported price of €35m seems fair for a player of his age, ability, and potential.

Gabriel is a left-footed centre back who has been commended for his defensive nous and aerial prowess, traits which, on paper, could reinvigorate Chelsea’s leaky defense.

But rave reviews are one thing; how do the numbers stack up? Is he as good as people suggest he is?

Rohaan Bhuyan
Rohaan Bhuyan

Gabriel’s defensive metrics certainly look good.

He beats the median on both defensive actions as well as success rate. He is just behind Brighton’s Lewis Dunk in positive defensive actions, and ahead of the likes of Real Madrid’s Raphäel Varane, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Barcelona’s Gerard Piqué, which might indicate a bright future for the 22 year-old (ed.note: though players on league-dominant teams tend to have fewer defensive action counts).

Rohaan Bhuyan
Rohaan Bhuyan

Gabriel’s ball-playing skills and buildup actions are not quite up to par however.

There is of course still time to rectify those concerns at his age. Plus, defensive nous seems to be more vital to Chelsea at the moment than ability on the ball anyway. Most of our buildup is done by the midfielders, like Jorginho or Mateo Kovačić or, lately, Billy Gilmour. Being “good on the ball” is important for any defender these days, but it’s not crucial for Chelsea at the moment.

Defensive metrics for selected centre backs
Rohaan Bhuyan

A primary reason for the interest in Gabriel would undoubtedly be his proficiency with the left-foot. Fikayo Tomori is the only one of Chelsea’s centre backs who doesn’t look totally out of place and his comfort zone at LCB. While there are certainly more seasoned left-footed defenders available, getting someone like Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli would probably cost a fortune (if he’d even be available) whereas Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti missed the entire 2019-20 due to injuries.

Gabriel may still be a raw defender who needs to develop further, but he may be one of the best options available to fill a position of need. The transfer is not completed yet despite all the noise, but if Chelsea do decide to sign him, he’ll still continue to grow under Lampard’s tutelage. As long as this transfer has Lampard’s approval, we should all be just fine.


All the player data and metrics used for this article have been taken from whoscored.com and understat.com.