Chelsea transfer watch: Raphael Varane, Ross Barkley and more
Kieran Beckles takes a look at some of the Chelsea transfer targets on show at this summer's World Cup
The 25-year-old is confident that he will be at Stamford Bridge next season after declaring that he is future lies “more with Chelsea than Atletico Madrid”. Former Liverpool midfielder Ronnie Whelan suggested that Jose Mourinho should re-evaluate the deal after Diego Costa’s limp World Cup performance. It is hard to disagree with the Irishman. The Brazilian-born striker is one of the fall guys after the defending world champions saw their title defence come to a premature end. Costa was clearly lacking fitness as the Dutch were 5-1 winners against Spain in their Group B opener, with the striker’s sole contribution winning la Roja’s first-half penalty. With their place in the competition at stake, Costa squandered a series of chances before being replaced by Fernando Torres in Spain’s 2-0 loss to Chile. It was a forgettable first World Cup for Costa, which is a surprise after a near-perfect season at Atletico. The Spain international’s end-of-season hamstring injury nullified his contribution as los Rojiblancos were crowned La Liga champions and lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final. If Mourinho’s words in the media are anything to go by, Costa will complete his £32m switch. Chelsea fans will view such a deal with trepidation; after all, the Blues have previous when it comes to wasting big money on a Spanish flop.
Mourinho has made no secret of his admiration for Real Madrid youngster Raphael Varane. “I think [Varane] is the best young central defender in the world. Already I think he’s the best,” the Chelsea manager said ahead of the World Cup. Mourinho will be seeking to lay foundations for a new long-lasting back four after Ashley Cole left the west London side this summer and John Terry is enjoying an Indian summer. Chelsea snapped up Kurt Zouma in a £12m deal in January before loaning the French youngster back to St Etienne. Varane could be the perfect partner for his compatriot. The 19-year-old has vast experience under his belt already. The France international started alongside Segio Ramos as Real Madrid beat Atletico in extra-time in the Champions League final and he helped los Blancos win La Liga in 2013. Varane has carried his end-of-season form into the World Cup after France were 3-0 winners against 10-man Honduras before thrashing Switzerland 5-2 last night. It is doubtful Mourinho needed any convincing about Varane’s qualities, but the Madrid defender is doing his case no harm.
Chelsea wasted little time signing a replacement for Frank Lampard as Cesc Fabregas completed a controversial switch to Arsenal’s bitter rivals earlier this month. At 27, Fabregas represents an immediate replacement for one of the Premier League’s best-ever goal-scoring midfielders. But Mourinho is very much thinking in the long-term, something the Portuguese coach regularly emphasised in his media conferences at Cobham last season. Ross Barkley could be that long-term replacement for Lampard. The Everton midfielder has already been likened to Paul Gascoigne, although most English playmakers that breakthrough seem to earn the ‘next Gazza’ tag. Barkley has made a difference at this World Cup when the 20-year-old was introduced from the bench against Italy and Uruguay. Against the South Americans, Barkley combined well with Wayne Rooney. The Everton man should get a chance to impress against Costa Rica if Hodgson decides to blood the exciting talent in his England squad.
Chelsea need to strengthen at full-back despite Cesar Azpilicueta’s excellent performances out of position on the left last season. Naturally, Mourinho has been linked with a swoop for Portugal defender Fabio Coentrao. The 51-year-old signed his compatriot during his Real Madrid reign, and could be tempted to lure the left-back to Stamford Bridge this summer. Mourinho is reportedly chasing Atletico Madrid defender Felipe Luis, too, but the Chelsea manager could opt for a known quantity in the shape of Coentrao, who will cost significantly less than the Brazilian. Unfortunately, though, Mourinho won’t have any further opportunities to analyse Coentrao at this World Cup after the defender pulled up with a hamstring strain in a 4-0 loss to Germany. Cristiano Ronaldo’s look of anguish highlighted his respect for his los Blancos team-mate, an endorsement of sorts.