Chelsea should pursue Donnarumma, Henderson this summer

ROME, ITALY - JULY 04: AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on July 4, 2020 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JULY 04: AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma gestures during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on July 4, 2020 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images) /

Despite spending over £200 million in the summer, Chelsea looks to be venturing back into the transfer market again this summer, with Erling Haaland pointed to as the next top target. For all of the ability the Norwegian striker has, of which there is plenty, a case should be made for investing the money elsewhere. In fact, there is a possibility that the Blues wouldn’t even need to spend anything on a transfer fee for the role in question.

I wrote four months ago that Edouard Mendy was a stop gap and not a long-term solution for the club. Despite his impressive performances under Frank Lampard and Thomas Tuchel, I still believe it is the case. The Senegalese international has made some game-saving stops on a number of occasions and that is exactly why Chelsea bought him. You would be hard pressed to think that Kepa Arrizabalaga would make the same save in the same situation—although he did make some excellent stops against Barnsley—Mendy has made Chelsea solid and calm at the back again.

However, the point remains that Mendy tuned 29 on March 1 and the Blues need to look to the future. Mendy is quality, but a club like Chelsea cannot maintain its march toward titles with an aging goalkeeper, it needs to be constantly evolving. Mendy has to be included in that process.

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He is the perfect candidate for the Willy Caballero role at the club. The Blues have quality depth at every position but goalkeeper; with him as back-up, there is likely not been a more capable back-up since Thibaut Courtois was behind Petr Cech—it’s depth any squad would envy. Make no mistake, this is not a case to just toss Mendy aside, but the reason the Blues need to strike now at the goalkeeping position is because there is a window of opportunity Chelsea cannot let slip by.

If Chelsea were to buy a goalkeeper in the summer, who should it go for?

I wrote back in 2018 that Chelsea should buy Gianluigi Donnarumma from AC Milan, as he had a buy-out clause of only €30 million (about £25 million) in his contract if Milan missed the Champions League. It did, but Chelsea didn’t pounce. Instead, the west Londoners paid a world-record fee for Arrizabalaga. Opportunity missed.

Yet, as luck would have it, the Blues could once again score Donnarumma and once again all because of a contract issue. This time, the Italian international has run down his contract and could be available for free in the summer. The possibility of Chelsea securing the heir to Gianluigi Buffon’s crown, who is still just 22 years old, should be priority No. 1 for the Blues.

One asset that Chelsea fans have loved about Mendy is his height and ability to collect crosses. Donnarumma is the same height as Mendy, commands his box with aplomb and has excellent decision making in deciding when to come and when to stay. Like Mendy, his shot-stopping and reflexes are the strongest part of his game. In fact, much of what makes Donnarumma very, very good is what makes Mendy very, very good. Yet, Donnarumma has age on his side and if the Blues wanted to build around a goalkeeper, they could do worse than Donnarumma as he will only get better.

However, as reports still show AC Milan leading the pack for Donnarumma, Chelsea may be forced to turn to a rival and steal away an excellent player instead of the Italian shot-stopper.

Up in Manchester, Dean Henderson has reportedly grown frustrated at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reliance on Spanish international David De Gea. Henderson is just 24 and almost single-handedly saved Sheffield United from the drop last season—a big reason for Sheffield’s dip in form this year has come from a Henderson-sized hole in net. A taste of consistent Premier League action whet Henderson’s appetite and playing in only cup games for Manchester United appears to have not gone down well with the 24-year-old, especially considering De Gea’s shaky performances all season long.

United will not want to sell Henderson as it sees him as De Gea’s heir at Old Trafford. If Solskjaer continues to play De Gea in the league though, Chelsea could swoop in for Henderson.

Henderson is an excellent shot-stopper in his own right and vocal with his defenders, but he is also very good with his feet—an asset he holds over both Mendy and Donnarumma. United will not let him leave for cheap, but in a cruel twist for United, his lack of playing time means his price is probably lower than it should be. There is history between United and Chelsea in trading top-end talent, and if De Gea keeps hold of that No. 1 jersey, Henderson—quite rightly—will look for a move away.

In Donnarumma and Henderson, Chelsea has a bona-fide No. 1 under the age of 25 with experience playing at the highest level. Both are superb shot-stoppers, commanding and vocal in defence. A duo of Mendy and either Donnarumma or Henderson would rival the best in Europe and allow the club to be completely settled at the goalkeeper position for the next decade.

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It is still too early for there to be any significant movement on either deal. But if the Blues are once again wading into the transfer market, it would be wise to consider investing for a long-term solution in goal, rather than plunging more into an attack that is already an embarrassment of riches.