John Terry was an absolute luxury. The Captain, Leader, Legend gave Chelsea an answer for one of its two centerback positions for nearly two decades and in football, there are few things better than an individual who a manager knows he can count on. Since Terry left in 2017, the Blues have been searching for a consistent centerback pairing. There has been no shortage of options or experiments, but each duo has failed the longevity test.
The 2020/21 season began with a new and improved defense, led by Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva in the center. While that pair lasted many months together, the partnership eventually fizzled out and Zouma hasn’t been a part of the Blues’ line-up since a few weeks prior to Thomas Tuchel’s arrival. The new manager shifted formations and as with any tactical change, he is now searching for a perfect trio to play at the back. Chelsea is now reportedly looking at a host of Bayern Munich defenders to fill the gap. This begs the question of which one (or two) should the club sign and who should the Blues should steer clear of to best protect their long-term interests?
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Jerome Boateng is the most likely defender to make the switch to Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, he’s also the worst option. Boateng will be nearing 33 by the time the Blues take the pitch for the start of the 2021/22 campaign and while age hasn’t impacted some—like Thiago Silva—it’s hit Boateng like a ton of bricks. As he’s gotten older, the appearances have dwindled as the errors escalated. I seldom insert personal opinions in my pieces, but I can comfortably say this time that Boateng would immediately become the Blues’ worst centerback upon signing.
During his one season in England, Boateng was OK, but suffered some injuries and eventually expressed a desire to leave. He went on to play for Bayern Munich, where he eventually perfected his craft and became one of the most talented centerhalves in the world. That was then though, this is now. Boateng is no longer wanted by the Bavarians and that in and of itself should scare Chelsea. He’s a shell of his former self and although he’s free, he’s simply not a great defender anymore. The Blues’ over-30 policy should prevent them from buying Boateng, but after Silva’s successful switch, one never knows.
While Boateng is seemingly worst-case scenario, the other two players Chelsea has been linked with would be wonderful additions. David Alaba has refused the opportunity to renew his deal with Bayern in favor of more playing time elsewhere. While he’s been rumored to be making his dream switch to the Bernabeu, his contract at Real Madrid isn’t signed and sealed just yet. The Blues are reportedly trying to sabotage the deal before it gets over the finish line in what would be a fantastic piece of transfer business. The only hesitation many have is his alleged wage demands of £400,000 per week. The honest truth is few players on Earth are worth that price and although it’d be a free transfer, Alaba simply isn’t one of the few.
However, if Chelsea manages to bring that number down significantly, Alaba would be a perfect addition to Thomas Tuchel’s team. Alaba is a natural left back who has cut his teeth at Bayern as a centerback—and excelled. He represents Tuchel’s ideal defender as he can play multiple positions in a few different formations, all at a world class level. Alaba is an excellent option, but his price may outweigh his ability.
Lastly, there’s Niklas Sule. Sule is the biggest risk of the bunch, but he’s also got the highest potential for reward. The German defender represents the perfect Premier League centerback. He’s a towering presence (6-foot-5, 218 pounds), strong and quick. However, Sule has a lengthy injury history. At just 25 years old, he has the potential to be an anchor at the back for the Blues for the next six or seven years. Despite his questionable fitness in the past, Sule is worth the risk. He’s not the most crucial player to Bayern’s success and for the right price, could surely be wiggled away. The young centerhalf would make an excellent addition to the young, German Blues core.
There are no guarantees when bringing players into a squad, especially from a foreign countries. However, it’s easier to tell how certain players will mesh as opposed to others. It’s nice to see Chelsea weighing all of its options, but there are certain individuals the club should simply stay away from. The Blues must think about the bigger picture when eyeing potential targets.