Chelsea pulled off something of a transfer masterstroke on Friday by agreeing to sell Oscar to Shanghai SIPG for £60m.
The Brazilian midfielder had fallen out of favour under Antonio Conte and was pretty much surplus to requirements at the club, so for them to then receive one of the highest transfer fees of all time for the 25-year-old is somewhat baffling, and a strong indicator that the Chinese clubs’ bank accounts far exceed their common sense.
However, Chelsea have developed something of a knack for selling players for inflated prices – David Luiz, for example, was sold to PSG for £50m (though they did buy him back for £32 two years later), Juan Mata was offloaded to Manchester United for £37m in 2013 when then-manager José Mourinho didn’t want him (which he flatly denies now, but anyway), while they kicked off the period of Chinese spending by selling Ramires to Jiangsu Suning for £25m last January.
Selling the players for large amounts is one thing, but how can Conte and Chelsea maximise the effect of Oscar’s sale and use the £60m wisely?
Here are several options.
1. The Extravagant Option: Spend It All On James Rodríguez
Real Madrid playmaker James Rodríguez has been edging closer towards the Bernabéu exit door in recent weeks, and chose the aftermath of his side’s World Club Cup win in Japan earlier this month to throw his future into serious doubt. Chelsea were linked with the Colombian international in the summer, and having started just four league games for Real this season, it is difficult to see James having much of a future under Zinedine Zidane.
However, there would be serious question marks around his ability to slot in to Conte’s 3-4-3 formation. He is a natural number ten, and part of the reason for his failure to break into Real’s first team is his struggle to adapt to Zidane’s preference of a holding midfielder rather than an attacking one. If he can’t work in a midfield three, it’s difficult to see how he could play in a midfield two.
He could potentially be used as one of the forward three options, but his own preference of playing on the left would put him in direct competition with Eden Hazard.
There’s no doubting the 25-year-old’s quality, but Conte may want players who can play in his system straight away.
2. The Sensible Option: Buy A Defender And Midfielder
Chelsea’s starting options in defence and midfield are undoubtedly strong, but there are question marks regarding their strength in depth. If, for example, Victor Moses or César Azpilicueta were to fall injured, could the likes of ageing Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry, or still recovering Kurt Zouma come in and be adequate replacements?
The Times and Guardian have both reported on the club’s interest in Monaco midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko, the former French under-21 international that has been making headlines in Ligue 1. The 22-year-old’s combination of athleticism and power would make him perfect for the Blues’ midfield, and the £35-40m price tag would not be an issue.
The Guardian also claim that Conte is also interesting in bringing Bakayoko’s clubmate Djibril Sidibé to Stamford Bridge, with technical director Michael Emenalo roumoured to have watched both during Monaco’s Champions League tie against Tottenham earlier in the season.
Sidibé can play on either flank, and his ability to play in midfield as well as defence makes him a prime candidate to be a Conte wing-back. Having only just signed for Monaco this summer and with the club still in the Champions League, prising him away from the Ligue 1 could be a tricky
In terms of the centre, the club have been linked with a number of players, including Niklas Sule, Antonio Rudiger and Simon Kjaer.
3. The Wasteful Option: Buy Six Or Seven Squad Players
Matt Miazga (pictured), Michael Hector, Papy Djilobodji, Baba Rahman, Nathan, Kenedy, Mohamed Salah, Juan Cuadrado. Just some of the players Chelsea have seen fit to throw money at over the past few years. Some of them might have genuinely been signed with a view to integrating them into the first team down the line, but the vast majority were signed to be flipped and solid at a profit at a later stage.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it seems to be an awful lot of effort for the purposes of earning an extra few million. Conte’s side need reinforcements right now, so if he has any say in how the money is used then he will demand it be used on players ready for the first team.