It can be easy to forget that Chelsea is currently working their way through a litany of contractual situations with various defenders currently at the club.
The most high profile of them is Antonio Rudiger, who looks likely to be searching for a final payday elsewhere if Chelsea refuse to meet his wage demands. However, the futures of Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva are all currently under review. It is assumed that Andreas Christensen will sign a new long term contract soon, but nothing concrete has been completed as of yet.
Nonetheless, Trevoh Chalobah, arguably one of the brightest lights of Chelsea’s season, has penned a new contract keeping him at the club until 2026. Equally, the consistent quality from Chelsea loanee Levi Colwill on loan at Huddersfield breathes a fresh wave of optimism that Chelsea’s central defence is covered moving forward.
Yet, this is Chelsea. The original big-money club. There is absolutely no doubt that the club is looking at signing a top-level, young, central defender who can replace one of the senior players as their contracts wind to an end.
The Jules Kounde saga has petered out in recent weeks as rumours linking the young Frenchman to Manchester United has increased. Furthermore, Chelsea alleged interest in Juventus centre half Matthijs de Ligt has cooled slightly, although some rumours still persist.
It is now the turn of Wesley Fofana, arguably the best young central defender in the Premier League last season. With consistently excellent lent performances, the young French centre back looked as if he were going to fulfil his potential quicker than originally anticipated.
This was the case right up until Fofana suffered a serious fibula fracture on the fourth of August that has seen him already miss 106 days of training and 18 competitive matches for the Foxes. Despite this, Chelsea is the home of the Remontada, as Ruben Loftus Cheek has bounced back to his best following a long term injury, as has Callum Hudson-Odoi. Fofana could comfortably follow their path.
Fofana is an extremely gifted player, technically and physically. Fofana ranks in the top 10% of all central defenders in Europe’s top five leagues for aerial duels won with 4.2 per 90 minutes. Equally, he also ranks in the top 10% for tackles averaging 2.4 tackles per 90.
However, if Fofana is being scouted as a potential long term Rudiger replacement, then he needs to have outstanding technical ability, which he does. Fofana ranks in the top 11% for dribbles completed per 90 minutes for central defenders, meaning he can carry the ball past the defensive line, much like Rudiger does. Fofana is also in the top 10% for passes attempted and in the top 2% for progressive carries, which is simply outstanding.
Fofana is right-footed, which could be a stumbling block as it would seem more natural to have a left-footed centre back playing on the left-hand side of a back three. Yet, Rudiger is right-footed and operates almost exclusively on the left-hand side of a back three.
The Rudiger contract situation is, to me, a catch 22. It has only really been in this calendar year that Rudiger has reached the world-class level, his previous seasons at Chelsea have been nowhere near the level he is now operating at. His contract and wage demands make sense for a player who was one of the very best in a Champions League winning team. However, if he were to get the contract he demands, then he could be earning upwards of £200,000 per week well into his thirties.
Thiago Silva is proof that age is just a number, yet with Rudiger, his real quality has shone through predominantly under Thomas Tuchel. The question is, if Tuchel were to leave Chelsea would Rudiger be able to perform at the level his contract would demand? I am not too sure.
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Fofana is going to be turning 21 years old in mid-December, whereas by the end of the season Rudiger will be 29. By no means does this mean Rudiger is too old, but the age gap between the two, bearing in mind Rudiger is out of contract in the summer. It makes sense to look for viable replacements especially if Rudiger is unwilling to budge on his demands.
Ben Chilwell has already created a perfectly negotiable path from Leicester to Chelsea, and with reports linking current manager Brendan Rodgers with a move to Manchester United, Fofana could be tempted with a move to west London.
The signing of Fofana would certainly cost more than the contract Rudiger is looking for. However, Fofana reduces the age of the backline, has Premier League experience, and it is still believed that he will return to fine form post-injury.
There is a lot to like about this transfer, Fofana is a very exciting and highly-rated young Premier League centre back. The price will be astronomical which is to be expected from Leicester. If Chelsea wants him then few things can stand in their way. The hope is that Fofana would join the club and compliment the young academy talent that is already there or on loan.
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