Taking inventory of José Mourinho’s Chelsea wish list

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Toward the end of April, outlets in Europe started reporting that Jose Mourinho to Chelsea was a done deal. Well, it was mostly Sky Italia, but since Mou-to-Chelsea is accepted as inevitable, we should give somebody credit, especially when that outlet later reported the wish list – four expensive, high profile players Mourinho had requested Chelsea pursue this summer.

At the time, the names made sense, whether based on Chelsea’s needs or Mourinho’s assumed preferences. Now, just over three weeks later, there’s reason to doubt Santa will deliver anything from Mourinho’s list, possibly a hint he’s been a bad boy this season.

Regardless, the players Mourinho’s requesting give us some insight on how he sees Chelsea’s current squad. Each of these players can be seen as addressing a perceived need. The fact the Chelsea presumably (according to this fable) agreed to pursue them hints the Blues are ready for another summer spending spree.

1. RADAMEL FALCAO, F, ATLETICO MADRID

There was a time when the 27-year-old Colombian wasn’t linked to Monaco. That was three weeks ago. Back then, Falcao winding up at Chelsea made perfect sense, not only because a.) they need a striker, b.) are one of the few clubs that can afford him, c.) Mourinho’s faced him and apparently likes him, and d.) Falcao’s really, really good, but the Blues could use current Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (on loan from Chelsea) as a makeweight.

But if we assume Falcao’s agent may steer the striker to Monaco, Mourinho has to turn to Plan B, because it’s hard to conceive a scenario where Mourinho rides into next season with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, and Romelu Lukaku.

source: Reuters2. ÁNGEL DI MARÍA, W, REAL MADRID

When you watch Chelsea play, this one doesn’t initially make sense, given how much talent the Blues have behind their striker in their current 4-2-3-1 formation. But once you pencil in Eden Hazard on the left and Juan Mata in the middle, who are Chelsea’s best options on the right? The answer: Nobody who is as good as Ángel Di María.

They have Oscar – a great talent poorly suited to play wide in Mourinho’s system. There’s also Victor Moses, who would be a valuable option off the bench. Ramires can fill in, and maybe Marko Marin finds a role. But none of these options are as good as Di María.

A Hazard-Mata-Di Maria attacking midfield would be gruesome for opponents, Di Maria’s speed and work rate a great complement to Hazard and Mata. But given the way the Real Madrid dressing room has coalesced in the face of Mourinho’s departure, it’s difficult to see a Real player making the move to Stamford Bridge (though who knows what Di María’s personal thoughts are on the conflict).

3. JOAO MOUTINHO, M, FC PORTO

Nearly a Spur, having come oh so close to a move to White Hart Lane last fall, Moutinho may end up a not-so-nearly Blue, with the Portuguese international also tied up in the Monaco rumors. It’s too bad, because there are a number of small connections that make you think Moutinho might be a perfect fit: Portuguese international; Porto player (a former Mourinho club); willingness to move to England; and fits a huge need for Chelsea.

Or maybe all those links could be reason to think Moutinho may still find his way to Stamford Bridge.

source:  4. PEPE, D, REAL MADRID

This is the one that won’t happen and probably never should have, given Chelsea have David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and John Terry in central defense. Yet there was the feeling, all those weeks ago, that Pepe was surplus at Real Madrid, and although Mourinho had made the decision to promote Raphael Varane over him, perhaps the Portuguese international would have an impact at Stamford Bridge.

Since, however, Pepe has been outspoken against Mourinho. Once thought to be the leader of Real Madrid’s pro-Mourinho Portuguese guard, now the defender is leading their revolt. Unless the two make up, Mourinho’s going to have to look elsewhere for his defensive’s reinforcements.

 

So let’s play a game, if even in our own heads. If Jose thinks these are areas of need at Chelsea (not certain, but let’s make that assumption) and these players aren’t available (see previous parenthetical), then who would Mourinho add to his new wishlist? Because with the other thin news around the soccer world hinting this list is now useless, Mourinho may need some backup plans.

‘Nothing is impossible’: Bonucci brings hope to AC Milan

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MILAN (AP) Nothing is impossible. That’s AC Milan’s new unofficial slogan following Leonardo Bonucci’s surprise transfer from defending six-time Serie A champion Juventus.

[ MORE: Neymar reportedly tells Barca teammates he’s off to PSG ]

Presenting fans to Bonucci via Weibo on Friday, Milan CEO Marco Fassone recounted how Italy’s top defender moved to a rival club.

“It started by chance and it seemed impossible but Leo interrupted me right away and said, `Nothing is impossible. When there’s desire to do things you can get them done.”‘

Milan has been on a spending spree following the club’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium for $800 million in April, and Bonucci is the top acquisition, so far.

“Leo doesn’t require introductions,” Fassone said. “It’s an extraordinary reinforcement for us. … He completes a mosaic sought after by (Milan chief sport officer Massimiliano) Mirabelli – a mix of younger players and experienced leaders who will make the road ahead easier.”

Other recent signings by Milan included forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Bonucci thanked Kessie for letting him wear his preferred No. 19 shirt, and pointed to Milan’s seven European Cups and Champions League titles as a reference point for a club that did not even qualify for continental play the last three years and hasn’t won Serie A since 2011.

“Milan deserves to be among the elite again in Italy and Europe,” Bonucci said. “When you are united you win. The strength has to be that of the squad whereas singular players alone can do nothing. We can get back to the top and that’s what this club deserves.”

Bonucci’s transfer fee reportedly topped the 40 million euro ($45 million) mark, and the center back was signed to a five-year contract worth up to 10 million euros ($11 million) per season, including bonuses – making him the highest-paid player in Italy.

Meanwhile, Juventus is reportedly near to signing prized winger Federico Bernardeschi from Fiorentina for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($45 million). The Gazzetta dello Sport reported Juventus will sign the 23-year-old Bernardeschi to five-year contract worth 4 million euros ($4.6 million) per season.

Vertonghen: “We need to level up” like rest of PL contenders

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Tottenham put up a heck of a title fight in 2016/17 as the club attempted to chase down Premier League champions Chelsea, but Spurs have been inactive this summer as Mauricio Pochettino‘s group gears up for next month.

[ MORE: Striker Morata signs five-year contract with Chelsea ]

The London side finished second in the PL a season ago — a record-high for the club during the modern Premier League Era.

[ VIDEO: History of the North London Derby ]

However, Pochettino and Co. have made no moves in the transfer market this summer, while its competitors — Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. — have all made significant roster additions to bolster their lineups.

Defender Jan Vertonghen says that Spurs must compete with the rest of the PL’s elite in the transfer market if the club is to finally realize its goal of finishing atop England’s top flight.

“The way our rivals are strengthening this season, we need to be aware of that and we need to level up as well,” Vertonghen told ESPN FC.

“I’m not saying with new players, but we need to take our levels up and I think we can. I’m the oldest outfield player in the team and I feel very fit. The younger guys can improve even more. It can definitely be our year and we want it to be our year.

“Luckily we almost kept everyone from this year. Obviously the window is not closed yet but if we can keep these guys, we can do the same thing again. It’ll be a bit harder because we play at Wembley! [The pitch] is a lot bigger but the training pitches have already been adapted.

While Spurs certainly benefit from having one of the strongest young groups of players in England, the club’s lack of spending is a bit concerning, especially after its recent loss of Kyle Walker — who joined Manchester City for a record fee.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.