With the prodigal son of Stamford Bridge, José Mourinho, finally returning for a long-awaited special spell at Chelsea, transfer speculation is already rife in central London. When Mourinho first arrived in 2004, he brought in relatively unknown players, such as Didier Drogba and Michael Essien, and made them into champions.
But there were also some less successful signings, for example, £4million Czech defender Jiří Jarošík who made just 14 appearances, or Asier del Horno, whose 25 appearances cost the club £320,000 each.
However, with the experience of another Champions League victory (at Inter) and a La Liga title with Madrid, Mourinho is unlikely to make similar mistakes again, and with the backing of Roman Abramovich’s seemingly endless checkbook, the sky is the limit for the Blues. With a long summer transfer window ahead, who can we expect to see lining up at Stamford Bridge next season?
Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis has made no secret that he knows star striker Edinson Cavani could be tempted to London this summer, saying “Chelsea want Cavani” and that they would “call me in the next hours about it.” That call was reported to have contained a £40million + Thibaut Courtois bid from Chelsea, but the offer was rejected, with the sometimes-eccentric chairman refusing to accept a penny below the £53million release clause in the Uruguayan’s contract.
Cavani has been at Napoli since 2010, and made a name for himself as one of the planet’s top strikers. Strong, quick, and acrobatic when he needs to be, he has scored 78 goals in 104 appearances for the Partenopei and is capable of scoring any type of goal; a quick browse through YouTube will bring up free kicks, volleys, deft finishes, chips, bicycle kicks and powerful net-busters, so it is understandable that Manchester City have also reportedly shown interest.
The price tag, which would be a new British transfer record, is putting both teams off for now, but neither Abramovich nor the City owners have been shy about spending vast amounts of money for players in the past, particularly strikers. Chelsea have the upper hand over manager-less City at the moment, but if terms can’t be agreed with ‘El Matador’ Cavani, Mourinho has several other reported targets.
Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetić is one of them, with the Arsenal target thought to be unhappy at Fiorentina. Jovetić has a more modest scoring record in Serie A (34 goals in 115 games) and as such would command a more modest transfer fee, potentially around the £25million mark. At 23 years old, he is three years Cavani’s junior, and is celebrated as one of European football’s most exciting young talents. A fan favorite in Florence, Jovetić has stunned La Viola with this statement alerting Chelsea, Arsenal, and Juventus of his availability:
“Florence and the Viola fans have always asked me to be upfront: so here it is. I need stimulation elsewhere, I need to devote myself in a top club. I’ve played in Europe with Fiorentina, now I want to win in Europe.”
Although he doesn’t possess the same variety of skills as Cavani, Jovetić is an accomplished finisher and is capable of making assists, as well as playing out wide on either side when needed.
Outside Serie A, Brazilian forward Givanildo Vieira de Souza, more commonly known as Hulk, has suggested Mourinho wants him at Chelsea, saying, “If I said there wasn’t anything in it, I would be lying. But that is not for now.” Hulk has enjoyed a colorful career despite still being only 26, playing in Brazil, Japan, Portugal, and Russia and scoring in an 8-0 thrashing of China by his native Brazil, where he made only one club appearance before moving to Kawasaki Frontale near Tokyo.
His big move came in 2008 when he was signed by Porto, then and now Champions of Mourinho’s native Portugal. He scored 90 goals in 99 games in Portugal, and it came as a surprise when he turned down a move to one of Europe’s “big” leagues and instead signed for Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia for a fee thought to be around €40million.
It has been a difficult time for the athletic Hulk, who has fallen out with coach Luciano Spalletti and been subject to racist abuse from Zenit fans who disagree with black players playing for the club. In January, he declared that he wanted to leave the club, but FIFA regulations forced him to stay until at least June 2013. Known for his powerful long-range strikes and blistering pace, Hulk could light up the Premier League with the right team around him.
Other names have been mentioned - Edin Džeko, Xabi Alonso, and even Cristiano Ronaldo - but the debate has arisen as to whether the arrival of a new forward would even be necessary, and if one does come in, whether someone would have to leave. Six Chelsea players hit double figures last season, including the contradictory Fernando Torres. Torres scored 23 goals for the club, seemingly a successful season, but only eight of these goals came in the Premier League, with the majority scored in the Blues’ successful Europa League run.
Demba Ba scored a fantastic goal against Manchester United but failed to continue his scoring form from his Newcastle time, with less goals than defenders Branislav Ivanović or David Luiz. However, it is Belgian wonderkid Romelu Lukaku that will cause Mourinho the most problems over the next few months.
Lukaku took the Premier League by storm last season with West Brom, scoring 17 goals and terrifying defenders across the country. On the final day of the season, he scored a perfect hat-trick against Manchester United, helping The Baggies come from three goals down to claim an incredible 5-5 draw.
His physique and finishing have draw obvious parallels with the spearhead of Mourinho’s attack in his first spell at the club, Didier Drogba, but at 20 years of age, he is seen as one for the future rather than the present. Many Chelsea fans have made the argument that if he can score 17 goals for West Brom, surely he can score even more with Mata, Hazard, and Oscar behind him, but it is undecided whether he will be able to play at Champions League level.
In any case, Mourinho will certainly want to make an impression on his return from Madrid and stamp his name on the team; how better to do so than breaking the British transfer record and bringing in a samba superstar in the same window?