Chelsea name potential Thiago Silva replacement as £52m transfer verdict emerges
Given the supply of centre-backs at Chelsea, both available and unavailable, there is general surprise that the club is still looking to sign another defender this window. Benoit Badiashile, Thiago Silva, Levi Colwill and Axel Disasi are all capable of playing there even if they have been moved around to fill roles accordingly.
Trevoh Chalobah and Wesley Fofana haven’t played a minute between them and the overall average age of this collective unit of six is only slightly over 25, despite Silva bumping that up massively. Mauricio Pochettino is, for now, well stocked.
However, football.london understands that Nice’s Jean-Clair Todibo is of serious interest to the club while Marc Guehi remains a player deeply admired by his former side. It certainly appears that the current group is not deemed to be enough.
Part of the reason for this is the current uncertainty over Silva. He is only contracted until the end of the season and is yet to sign, or make much progress towards agreeing, a new extension to what has always been an effective one-year rolling deal. He remains just as central to the current plans as ever, though.
There is no precedent for someone nearing 40 playing this often as an outfielder, though, let alone doing it in a team with aims of competing with the top six. It is this that creates unknowns and sparks the defensive recruitment drive. Now, it has been reported that Silva really is ready to call it quits on his time in London but not only that, Alessandro Bastoni at Inter is being lined up as a replacement.
The Italian has been a long-term target for Chelsea as well as other Premier League clubs, but could be sold due to dire financial problems crippling the Nerazzurri. Reports in Italy say that Chelsea are ready to blow Real Madrid and other competitors out of the water with an offer of over £52million.
Here, football.london takes a look at the great Silva conundrum and if Bastoni is the man to solve it.
football.london says: Bastoni has always felt destined to play English football at one stage. Antonio Conte’s spells here made it a genuine option at times, too. Much like Kalidou Koulibaly, he has been one of the most-linked players to this country for a while.
However, now is maybe not the best time. Although Tottenham still need defenders, they are looking at quicker options having already established a first choice pairing and to be honest, Chelsea aren’t in that much defensive trouble. The problem is a lack of experience, not numbers. The quality is there, but it’s unharnessed.
Badiashile and Colwill are two of the best young defenders out there, but hardly play together in their natural positions. Fofana is just not yet fit enough to have staked a claim but is another who has aspirations to be a regular starter and a world class star. Where Bastoni, an older but not established player in the Premier League, fits in is unclear.
He’s not going to have the impact of someone like Silva even if he is an immediate upgrade right now. But longer-term, Chelsea can’t firmly say what his role is. Their problems in this area have come from the recruitment strategy not necessarily the players themselves and although Bastoni is fine he’s not transformative or necessarily the right sort of player.
They signed Disasi in the summer after Chalobah’s injury and he has been decent enough but not spectacular. He has done very little, if anything at all, that Chalobah himself coudn’t do, and that is entirely predictable. Very shortly he is going to be the third choice, if not lower.
Replacing Silva will always bring up these conversations, though. He is such a unique player and there is a balance to be had between analysing whether his effectiveness on the ball and the leadership he brings is enough to counter the moves that need to be made in order to fit him in.
Silva isn’t quick enough to play in a high-line or massively high-pressing side and if Chelsea do try this they leave themselves exposed on the counter or with distances between the lines all wrong. The ideal scenario, to stop awkward conversations, would be for Silva to have the final say himself before Chelsea have to think about trying to let him go.
It would be perfect to get him into a coaching role of sorts too but with a dream of returning back to Brazil it just doesn’t seem optimal. Really, Chelsea do need to transition away from Silva and it is a lot easier to see what they truly have with a set-up not held together by a 39-year-old than to evaluate players next to him instead.
Moving on Koulibaly was easy enough as a player meant to be at his peak coming in and largely struggling – finding room for two thirtysomething-year-old defenders at the top flight is tough. The group right now all have talent enough to warrant a place but aren’t proven to the point of being staples, that only comes with time and time is a commodity not yet known in football.
Bastoni just doesn’t change any of this. He isn’t the standout that screams to be bought and played as an undroppable star. He would cost enough to warrant a decent load of gametime, though, and the effect that could have on others in the squad is problematic.
He might have been the answer before, but he’s not now or moving forward. Whether that statement is made towards Silva or Bastoni, it doesn’t matter.