Chelsea’s attempts at signing Andre Schurrle from Bayern Leverkusen seem to have taken another step with the German club’s general manager confirming that a deal, in principle, has been agreed.
For a while it has seemed that personal terms have been agreed between the attacking midfielder / winger and Chelsea, with only a transfer fee and other particulars needing to be hashed out.
The transfer fee has not necessarily been the stumbling block though. The reason for why this deal has not been officially announced has been because of Leverkusen’s desire to find a replacement before they were to allow Schurrle to go. It has been reported that their primary target was Chelsea player Kevin de Bruyne, who has himself been playing for Werder Bremen on loan for the last season, and before they would accept any deal for the transfer they would want an agreement that de Bruyne would be loaned to Leverkusen as a replacement.
In this predicament, oddly, it has actually been Kevin De Bruyne in the position of power, or at least in the position to block the deal. Chelsea cannot force him to move to Leverkusen, and so if De Bruyne was adamant against this, the transfer would be likely to collapse. This has appeared to be the case up until now, since the Belgian is not keen on another loan, with a possible transfer to Dortmund even suggested to replace Gotze.
That said, it now seems that a deal has been agreed between Chelsea and Leverkusen with De Bruyne accepting the outcome. The fee for the 22-year old is reportedly £20 million with the Belgian Chelsea player moving in the other direction on loan for one season.
Wolfgang Holzhauser, the Leverkusen general manager, told the Rheinische Post newspaper:
[quote]We have reached an agreement with Chelsea. They are going to buy Andre Schurrle for a specific fee and, in return, they will loan De Bruyne to us for a year for free. I expect Chelsea to stand by what has been agreed.[/quote]
Now that it seems that this is likely to go through, the implications must be considered.
The immediate concern for Chelsea fans is that Kevin de Bruyne, who plays the same kind of role as Schurrle (wide or central attacking), is arguably the better player. In the Bundesliga this season, the former has scored 10 goals with nine assists in 33 appearances; the latter has scored 11 and assisted 7 in 34 appearances.
Admittedly these stats are similar; De Bruyne has directly contributed to more goals, but Schurrle has scored 1 more. What is also worth mentioning, though, is the quality of teams that they have played in. While Schurrle has been playing in a third place, Champions League qualifying side, De Bruyne has been with a 14th place, relegation threatened team (there are only 18 teams in the Bundesliga).
This is relevant because an individual playing his football in a team that is better than 78% of the others in the league is obviously going to have more opportunity and more quality around him than somebody who plays for a team like Bremen that is often being pegged back and/or chasing the game. For this reason it would be reasonable to assume, if one didn’t already know, that Schurrle’s stats would be better.
That is not the case however; they are relatively even. In fact if you were pushed to say whose were better it would surely be Kevin De Bruyne. The fact that his stats are as good, if not better than Schurrle’s would seem to suggest that he is ready for Chelsea and even the better option for their squad.
That said there is something to be gained that is perhaps greater than any likely loss: the transfer of Schurrle (of course). Chelsea are not technically losing de Bruyne, only his services for one campaign. In the grand scheme of things, it may be worth loaning out De Bruyne for another season, who in that time will only get better, and brining him back into the squad the year after, at which point Chelsea would own two strong players, both still on long-term contracts (De Bruyne is contracted until 2017).
The only worry beyond this is that De Bruyne could become disillusioned at his treatment as a bargaining chip. He has already spoken once this season about feeling undervalued by Chelsea and this would surely make things worse.
I personally believe that this is the main worry. If in 2014/15 both players are back in the Chelsea squad then the transfer will have arguably been fruitful, even if he could have made a significant impact next season. If this deal comes to be though, with De Bruyne going to Leverkusen, then there will be concern over whether he will ever feel motivated to play for Chelsea again.