This week’s column will reflect on Chelsea’s Asia pre-season tour, discuss the upcoming Guinness International Champions Cup, and the potential transfer of Rooney to Chelsea and how he would fit into the current Chelsea squad.
This past week saw the Blues finish their Asian tour in emphatic style with an 8-1 thumping of BNI Indonesia All-Stars, on Thursday in Jakarta. Ramires and Romelu Lukaku with a brace each and the remaining four goals split one a piece for Eden Hazard, Demba Ba, John Terry and Bertrand Traore. Mourinho expressed that he was happy with the performance of all the players in the Asia Tour, picking up three victories, scoring 13 goals and conceding only two.
With the full squad back in training on Monday, including 2013 Confederations Cup participants and De Bruyne, Schurrle and Lampard, who each suffered minor injuries in Asia, Mourinho will have a full strength squad at his disposal in the US. The team jet off for the US on Tuesday where they will compete with AC Milan, Everton, Inter, Juventus, LA Galaxy, Real Madrid and Valencia, for the inaugural Guinness International Champions Cup.
The Europa League winners take on Inter in their first round clash on Thursday, 1st of August. If Chelsea beat Inter, they win will go on to face AC Milan, who beat Valencia 2-1 on Saturday, in the second round on Sunday, the 4th of August. If Chelsea emerge victorious they could potentially face Mourinho’s former team Real Madrid in the final, scheduled to be played on the 7th of August at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Florida.
With the full first team at his disposal, it will be interesting to see how Mourinho sets out the team on Thursday, against his former club Inter, bearing in mind some of the players only started training on Sunday. This will however be no ordinary pre-season fixture, with a coveted pre-season trophy at stake and some of the world’s most successful clubs on display, it is no secret the Special One will be eager to win.
The Rooney to Chelsea saga is one that keeps gaining steam, as Rooney’s displeasure with his current club grows and interest from Mourinho builds. In May, Sir Alex Ferguson said that Rooney had put in a transfer request, presumably due to his frustration of playing second fiddle to Robin Van Persie all of last season. The past month has been back and forth with Manchester United manager David Moyes saying that Rooney will be staying at United, a statement which served to frustrate Rooney even further, leading the England international to reveal that his future with United was uncertain. Amidst the mayhem in Manchester, Jose Mourinho has sang praise for Rooney, indicating his interest in the Red Devil’s number ten. Mourinho’s interest in Rooney was confirmed when Chelsea issued an official bid for him. Whether or not a move for Rooney to Chelsea materialises is yet to be determined, but the important question is, if Chelsea do sign Rooney, where will he fit into the Chelsea squad?
If Rooney is a Chelsea player next season, will he play as a traditional “number nine” target man or as a “number ten” playmaker? Chelsea have not signed a striker this summer, despite many critics claiming that is the area where the Blues are currently underperforming. Lukaku seems set to secure a first team spot with Chelsea this season. With Torres, Lukaku and Ba as the striking options for Mourinho’s side, will Rooney be looking to compete for the number nine position? Rooney has publicly admitted his desire to play as a centre-forward and not in the mid-field, but whether he will just be handed the position over the current strikers is uncertain.
Rooney is arguably better playing in the traditional number ten position or supporting striker, playing just behind Robin Van Persie or Chicharito at United. His ability to create opportunities for goals, finding the space and fantastic delivery is often more notable than his clear cut goal scoring abilities. However, Chelsea already have a number ten, Juan Mata. Mata’s abilities are undisputable, evident in the young Spaniard earning the Chelsea Player of the Year in his first season with the club. Last year, challenged by Eden Hazard, Mata went on to win the Player of the Year award for a second season, also earning the Players Player of the year. Can Rooney really walk into Chelsea and take away the role now dominated by Mata? Surely not.
Mourinho is known for setting up his side with a right-footed player on the left-side and a left-footed player on the right-side. A tactic the Special One first implemented at Chelsea during his initial spell at the club, and then carried over to Inter and Real Madrid. Chelsea have a few players to choose from to occupy the left-side, with Hazard favourite, but Mata is the only left-footed player who could play on the right-side. If Mourinho were to reposition Mata on the right-side, this would open up a central position which Rooney could potentially fill.
It is no secret that Rooney is a fantastic footballer. He is creative, strong and knows how to score goals, but at 27 years old, prone to injury and having spent the last season playing second fiddle to Robin Van Persie, is he the same player that we all feared every time Chelsea faced United?
One thing is for sure, with the Special One back and an abundance of fresh young talent in the squad, Chelsea are going to be a force to reckon with this coming season, with or without transfer target Wayne Rooney.