Chelsea activated a one-year extension in Olivier Giroud’s contract in what seemed to be a smart move at the time, but it may come back to haunt the club.
The Blues extended the seasoned striker a few weeks ago amidst interest from teams like Inter Milan. Giroud’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season. The likelihood of him staying at Stamford Bridge was slim-to-none, despite his recent stint of time on the pitch. The Blues would’ve seen one of their clinical front-men walk away for free.
While the extension is undoubtedly a smart business decision for Chelsea, it may come back to hurt them. Nobody can truly know who Lampard wants as a backup striker next season, but all signs point towards Dries Mertens being his man. However, Inter is looking to skip the middle man—Chelsea—and bring in Mertens on a free transfer as opposed to paying for Giroud.
Inter is conducting a good piece of business here, surely. It seems as if Lautaro Martínez, Inter’s striker, is headed for a bigger club. Therefore, bringing in another striker is inevitable. Former Blues boss and current Inter manager Antonio Conte is looking for a replacement, but wants a backup striker to play behind Romelu Lukaku. While Giroud mirrors Lukaku and allows Inter to play with more consistency, Mertens’ game reflects Martinez’s.
On the other hand, Chelsea is going to likely miss out on one of its main transfer targets. Another year of Giroud isn’t the end of the world. However, it means he’ll move elsewhere next summer on a free transfer.
In addition, it limits what the Blues can do at the striker position. One of the main reasons Lampard likes Mertens is because of his versatility. Like Hakim Ziyech, Mertens can play all around the pitch up top. Further, he’s not just a clinical finisher. Mertens brings more to the table than Giroud.
Unless Lampard and his staff find another versatile backup for Abraham—or someone to challenge the young English forward—Giroud will likely spend another year at Stamford Bridge. Maybe triggering the extension wasn’t a great thing after all.
Chelsea isn’t truly out of the race for Mertens until pen hits paper, but Inter is pulling ahead as the favorite at this point. Let’s hope the few million pounds the Blues wanted to gain from selling Giroud is worth missing out on Mertens.