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Chelsea, the reigning Premier League champions, suffered an early transfer blow when Everton hitman Romelu Lukaku was snapped up by former Blues boss Jose Mourinho (who is currently in charge of league counterparts Manchester United) from under Antonio Conte’s grasp.
The early stumble, however, made the Londoners alert and they quickly wrapped up deals for Spanish marksman Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid, former AS Monaco midfielder Timoue Bakayoko and German centre-back Antonio Rudiger from Serie A runners up AS Roma. Also, custodian Willy Caballero joined them on a Bosman transfer after being released by Manchester City upon expiration of his contract.
The Blues, meanwhile, lost a couple of defensive options among several exits. Skipper and the legendary John Terry’s contract was not renewed and the veteran Englishman joined Championship outfit Aston Villa. Promising defender Nathan Ake signed for league outfit Bournemouth on a permanent deal. Kurt Zouma, another high-profile young centre-back, has joined Stoke City on a season long loan for some regular minutes.
Although the new arrival Rudiger and the retaining of Academy graduate Andreas Christensen following a couple of successful loan spells (with Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach) restore defensive depth for the Italian tactician, Conte is reportedly pursuing Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk who has been a top priority transfer target for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Van Dijk has informed his current club Southampton about his unwillingness to continue at St. Mary’s.
Despite a nervy inception of his managerial debut in English football, Conte turned around Chelsea’s fortunes last season after shifting to a ‘back three’ formation and the likes of David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta served the purpose for the Blues. The addition of Ruidger and Christensen will provide enough defensive covers considering their participation in the prestigious Champions League. Cahill, Luiz and Rudiger are expected to be the three men at the back whereas Azpilicueta will be explored in a right wing-back role.
Any injury will shift the versatile Spaniard to his previous slot and Victor Moses, who had an imposing 2016-17 campaign, will deputise at right wing-back – a position that restored his Chelsea career under the former Juventus and Azzurri gaffer. Christensen will continue as a backup.
Do they really need to snap up Van Dijk? The £60m rated Dutchman will be a first-team player and Rudiger, the other new recruit, might have to sit out despite his top-notch displays for club and country. Christensen, the 21-year old prodigy, will be sent further down the pecking order and his progress will be hindered unless he is loaned out once more.
David Luiz, who had an impressive campaign in central defence, might be switched to a defensive midfield role alongside N’Golo Kante to make way for the former Celtic star. But this option seems little improbable as they also have Cesc Fabregas and new signing Bakayoko in the middle of the park and it will be injustice done to the Brazilian following his sublime spell in the middle of three-man back-line.
Yet, the signing might happen to blow Liverpool’s title aspiration once more, like they did by snatching current Reds winger Mohamed Salah in January 2014. Jose Mourinho has done the same again this summer to upset his former employers Chelsea by acquiring Lukaku. Van Dijk, however, is hailed as one of the world’s finest defenders and his signing can be foreseen as a win-win situation despite enough backups being available.