Roman Abramovich’s gift to save Chelsea £31m can unlock new Reece James role for Thomas Tuchel
Roman Abramovich’s is set to surrender the reins of Chelsea Football Club in the coming days and his parting gift could serve the Blues well for many years
Thomas Tuchel’s tactical invention took Chelsea within touching distance of a Champions League semi-final. The German’s plan revolved around nullifying the Real Madrid’s star-studded strike force.
And, a key cog in the west London side’s machine was Reece James, who replaced Andreas Christensen on the right of a back-three. The Denmark international struggled to keep his head above the water when Vinicius Jr ran riot in the first leg.
While it meant that the Blues sacrificed an element of James‘ prowess in the final third, Tuchel‘s side was able to neutralise the Brazil international to near-perfect effect. According to Spanish outlet Bernabeu Digital, Los Blancos’ hierarchy were impressed by the Cobham graduate, who operated in a relatively new role.
Despite James’ efforts, Carlo Ancelotti’s side eventually found the breakthrough down the right-hand side after Eduardo Camavinga intercepted Thiago Silva’s stray pass. Real Madrid dispossessed Chelsea when the England international found himself — through no fault of his own — hugging the touchline and beyond that of Vinicius Jr.
Speaking on BT Sport after the tie, Rio Ferdinand outlined that the winger’s single contribution of the evening came when James was unable to extinguish the threat. The former Manchester United defender said: “The goal that has brought the game level is the only time Reece James has not been in front of Vinicius Junior.
“This was the first time during the whole game that you saw Vinicius Junior running at someone else other than Reece James,” Ferdinand added. “What I love about his involvement in the goal is his patience. He is patient, waiting, waiting and waiting, and when you look at his eyes, the only person he is looking for is Benzema. That is the only person he wants to pass the ball to.”
James performed admirably on the right of Chelsea’s back-three, prompting a discourse ahead of the summer transfer window. If Tuchel is to make the 22-year-old a permanent feature in said position, then prospective club owners should make it their mission to sign a world-class understudy.
The Blues lodged an official bid of £56.1million for Achraf Hakimi in June, as reported by Sky Sports, before eventually losing out to Paris Saint-Germain. The Moroccan has since decided that he wants to leave Les Parc des Princes less than 12 months after joining, according to journalist Daniel Riolo on the ‘After Foot show’ on French radio RMC.
A player of Hakimi‘s pedigree would likely be welcomed by the fans, but the new Chelsea owners must take advantage of Roman Abramovich’s parting gift. The Blues included a buy-back clause in the deal which saw Tino Livramento leave for Southampton in the summer, according to the Athletic.
The Sun’s Tom Barclay revealed in August that said clause is worth upwards of £25million, though there has been no confirmation regarding whether there’s an expiry date. Should Chelsea look to bring the Cobham graduate back, the new owners could save themselves £31million by moving for Livramento over Hakimi.
Livramento has been a favourite of Ralph Hassenhutl’s this season, starting whenever he has been fit and providing a goal and two assists in the Premier League. The 19-year-old has more than warranted a return to west London in the summer and it’s certainly a deal that the fans have been routing for.