The Blues will be seeking a new striker with five potential targets analysed.
Chelsea’s need for a new striker is no new story. It has been a matter plaguing the club for years going back to their last genuine title charge in 2016/17. Since then they haven’t had a single player score more than 16 goals, a striker get over 15, or a reliable source for them throughout.
Frank Lampard insists he would still sign for Chelsea today if he was a player despite recent struggles
They have tried all types of models. The European major club hot shot, Alvaro Morata. The experienced pro coming in to save the day, Gonzalo Higuain. The academy lad forging his way, Tammy Abraham. The speedster and transition master, Timo Werner. The one that couldn’t falter, Romelu Lukaku. The false nine, Kai Havertz. The overage, past its manager’s preference, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Chelsea fans would be excused for being nervous at the very idea of splashing even more cash on another player deemed to be able to give them the release of goals that all those beforehand have promised. Heading into this summer and there isn’t a choice.
They finally appear set to rid themselves of one of the most expensively assembled groups of flops ever constructed going forward with Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, and Havertz all potentially on their way out, following Werner last year. Aubameyang is almost certain to follow them.
Chelsea is preparing to hit the reset button and now needs to find the perfect person to lead the line for Mauricio Pochettino. There is no simple answer, though. Strikers are the most valuable commodity in world football and excellent ones, let alone great ones, don’t grow on trees.
Investing significantly in a center-forward is one of the biggest gambles and it cannot be avoided. The previous regime had its successes and its flops. Didier Drogba and Diego Costa are two of the best in the club’s modern history but on either side of them come, Fernando Torres, Alexandre Pato, and Radamel Falcao.
For Pochettino to succeed next year he will need to add someone as close to a surefire success as possible, but they don’t exist. In an improper environment, almost any player can struggle. Harry Kane has had his dips in form in recent years but demonstrated the hot-cold nature of it by firing in plenty to make that a forgettable memory.
He is the evident answer to the problems. In Tottenham’s worst season since before Pochettino was appointed in north London, he has still netted 27 times in the league. His five penalties would make him the third top-scorer at Chelsea. It’s already his third-best return in a single season with two games remaining.
He is as near to a banker as there is. Premier League proved, English, known and revered by Pochettino, mature and settled in London. His price tag, poised to be well over £100m, is a massive sticking point, as is dealing with Daniel Levy. If Chelsea can get Kane and they do all they can to do so, that still might not be enough.
The other Premier League-based option is Ivan Toney. On the face of it, he is a very nice-looking candidate. A 27-year-old with remarkable link-up, a well-rounded game, English, experienced, and in-form without a track record of too many injuries. The Brentford forward has 20 league goals and four assists for one of the most direct teams in the division.
He is merely waiting for a bigger team to take the risk on him but there are concerns. Firstly, he won’t be available until January 2024 after being suspended for eight months following an FA investigation into breaches of betting regulations. It means that any attempts to sign him would either have to be delayed until the winter window or be in the knowledge he cannot participate for over half of next season.
The other query is how he would fare in a team that has more possession, less direct play, and isn’t bent to his will. This is an unanswerable query but one that only time will establish. Toney will undoubtedly get a big move sooner or later but whether or not it is to SW6 is another matter.
Thomas Frank claims he’s worth £100m but the numbers give a different impression. Toney is likely to be much cheaper if or when he does depart and the two years left on his contract could make that a much more achievable deal to complete for interested parties.
When searching abroad there is one league that provides three options. Serie A has been a happy hunting ground for forwards this year and the progress of Napoli to the Champions League quarter-final afforded a good look at one of the best. Victor Osimhen is set to conclude the year as the top scorer in Italy and has 23 goals this season.
At 23 he is the youngest player on this five-man list and for that reason also the most valuable. Osimhen is not just a player capable of scoring now but also in 10 years. His development across France and Italy has seen him become one of the most dreaded attackers in the game.
His lofty £150m valuation reflects that even if obstinate president Aurelio De Laurentiis remains determined to keep him regardless. Osimhen is seen as the next player to breach the Premier League and his combined ability to everything of a modern-day forward suggests that will be the case.
He is powerful in the air but also a lethal finisher and capable of operating in tight spaces with tricky forwards. This all makes him suited for Chelsea but Manchester United and Bayern Munich are also intrigued. The lack of European football could make this one challenging to get even if it is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The next man to be considered as a more well-known name for Chelsea fans, particularly as he is currently theirs. Lukaku.
The Belgian has begun to hit form after a struggle for a loan back at Inter Milan but will now be tasked with helping the 2021 Scudetto champions beat Manchester City in Istanbul. He has managed eight goals this season from 16 starts with yet another injury-plagued, fitness-concerned campaign.
His price, Inter’s financial worries, and the age of Lukaku all make him one of the players to monitor this summer. Just what Chelsea decides to do with him will be a fascinating observation.
Pochettino could, in principle, blitz him with fitness sessions, physically scaping him back into the bullish, transition loving, powerful and complete forward that he has shown to be at times during his career. However, if his physique weren’t to match up to that then it would leave him isolated.
There is also the minor matter of his fractured relationship with Chelsea supporters to get past. It is nothing that a positive season in front of goal wouldn’t alter but should things start badly or slowly then the pressure would be amplified. Lukaku isn’t an admired character at SW6 and would need to do much more than most to even come out with an ounce of respect.
He is, as a club asset, the ‘cheapest’ option so to speak but comes with the largest baggage.
His teammate Lautaro Martinez is perhaps a nicer match. Here is an energetic, archetypal Argentinian combatant forward with an eye for goal. Martinez has slid under the radar for many this year but his performances alongside Edin Dzeko against AC Milan got Europe talking again.
In a far-from-fluid Inter side, Martinez has 20 goals and five assists in 25 appearances. He is still just 25 and has a plethora of top-level experience behind him as well as offering the potential to link up with Enzo Fernandez and Pochettino, two of his fellow countrymen.
There are fewer connections between Martinez and Chelsea than the others but he is a player that makes sense, at least on paper. Trying to get Inter to part with their younger, more athletic forward in return for an older, more frail model is going to be a difficult task but the rewards could be enormous.
He was said to be available for around £70m last year, a reasonable fee for such a catch. The issue with him is the risk of failure is increased. £70m on Osimhen offers resale value and another guaranteed big-money move due to his performances.
Martinez would be in the middle ground that Chelsea has found themselves in purgatory in too often recently. With an adaption period to English football, it is plausible that a 27-year-old talent is on the books without much tangible progress.
Worrying about strikers failing before they have joined is quite something to contemplate but then again it’s Chelsea and that is what they have done to people in the past.