Despite making major strides defensively this year, Chelsea still have a lot of work to do before they can take the step to the next level.
Things aren’t as comically atrocious as they were last year, with both centre-back Thiago Silva and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy helping the cause since joining the club in the summer, but there’s still a feeling that the Blues can improve significantly.
Centre-back is probably the most important position on which Chelsea need to focus on. Silva, who has been heralded as the saviour of this back line, is 36 years old and no longer physically able to play week in, week out.
Enjoying the short-term with Silva is fine, but Chelsea need to find a long-term solution to their struggles at the back, and a move for RB Leipzig’ Dayot Upamecano is the perfect way to do exactly that.
Chelsea are known to be on the look-out for a young, established centre-back who can make an immediate impact and hold down the fort for the next decade, but the problem is there aren’t too many of them around.
Big names like Juventus‘ Matthijs de Ligt and Manchester City‘s Ruben Dias are obviously unavailable, but those that could be signed usually come with enormous price tags. Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and Villarreal’s Pau Torres are two examples, with both expected to cost in excess of £60m. Big yikes.
However, there’s one exception to the trend, and that’s Upamecano.
The 22-year-old Frenchman, who is approaching 200 senior appearances across both Germany and Austria, is widely seen as one of the Bundesliga‘s top defenders, and while that reputation usually brings an enormous price tag, Upamecano’s £40m release clause means he is incredibly affordable for the top sides.
It’s that kind of value-for-money which has piqued the interest of Real Madrid, Manchester United and a number of other top sides, many of whom have recognised the chance to bag a potential future superstar for a bargain fee.
Nobody needs that new defender as much as Chelsea, who need to do everything they can do bully their way to the front of the queue for Upamecano’s signature.
You’ll struggle to find anybody who doubts that Upamecano has what it takes to become one of the world’s best defenders. Chelsea haven’t had a superstar like that at the back since John Terry, and it’s time to sort that out.
It almost seems a little too good to be true, and to an extent, it is. While most would agree that Chelsea need a top defender immediately, Upamecano isn’t there just yet.
He can play a little too aggressively at time, lunging for the ball at times when he really shouldn’t be and instead relying on his supreme recovery speed to save the day. It’s a technique which doesn’t lead to too many goals, but it’s a little too risky for a team in Chelsea’s precarious defensive position.
It’s something which is extremely common in young defenders and something Upamecano will almost certainly grow out of. You can already see steady progress in his game, but he’s obviously not the finished article yet, and that’s fine.
What Upamecano does bring is solid current ability and unfathomable potential, and Chelsea should be all over that. He’s as close to a guaranteed long-term fix as you’re ever likely to find.
Bargains like this one don’t come around too often – Juventus paid £67.5m for De Ligt having seen him play just 77 Eredivisie games – and for a team who have just dropped a cool £200m on signings, Chelsea need all the bargains they can get.
If Chelsea pass up on Upamecano, they will only watch him rock up to one of their rivals and shore up their defence for the next ten years. It’s a deal the Blues need to be all over immediately.