Chelsea’s summer is reaching a crossroads after it has emerged that priority target Romelu Lukaku is set to join Manchester United. This is a huge blow for the Blues as it was widely reported that Antonio Conte wanted to bring the Belgian back to Stamford Bridge this summer to be his first choice striker. The fee is believed to be around £75 million, which is lower than many expected, but Wayne Rooney is set to go in the opposite direction. Although the two deals aren’t reliant on the other, the Rooney deal certainly would have helped United in their negotiations for Lukaku.
Now, Chelsea must regroup and react quickly, as they can’t afford to let the bad feeling engulf the club heading into pre-season. Strikers are notoriously the most difficult players to sign and the Blues are going to have to move on to other targets quickly. Currently, they have Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi at the club. They are two very talented forwards, but for one reason or another, they aren’t in a strong position to start the league season up front for the champions. Conte has already told Costa that he can leave this summer and a departure back to Atletico via China could be on the cards. Meanwhile, Batshuayi was afforded only one Premier League start during his maiden campaign in England. At the age of 23, he is young, but he isn’t favoured by Conte and a loan move could be on the cards for him.
There are three strikers that Chelsea may turn to now, as all would suit their system and they are attainable provided that the Blues put the money on the table. The first is Alvaro Morata, who has been the second choice striker at Real Madrid for the last 12 months. He came close to a move to Manchester United before it became clear that Jose Mourinho was going to move for Lukaku. The champions have been credited with an interest and he possesses the physical profile to lead the line effectively in a 3-4-3 formation.
Another possible target is Andrea Belotti, who has taken Serie A by storm over the last 12 months. He has been scouted by a lot of big clubs and although his release clause of €100 million has put off a lot of clubs, Chelsea may be willing to make a move. Conte follows the Italian leagues closely and he will be aware of the potential that Belotti possesses. He is a powerful striker, with an excellent ability in the air. The Torino man would be a good fit for English football and develop into a top quality striker if he was given the time to adjust. It would be a risk, but one that comes with the possibility of high rewards.
It is a possibility that Conte makes a U-turn and proceeds with Costa as his first choice striker, leaving his pursuit of a new striker until next summer. Atletico’s transfer ban will have ended by then and it will become easier to sell the Spanish international back to his former club. It will also allow Chelsea to scout further and find the best striker for them. However, it would be very unlike Conte to backtrack and that could leave the Blues in a desperate position when it comes to their striker search. They will be looking for a striker with a similar physical profile to Costa, which leaves them with limited options. It has to be a complete striker if they want to continue with their current style of play, which is why Morata and Belotti both make sense.
If they were to change their style, they may choose to enter the race for Kylian Mbappe. The teenager will be difficult to sign and there is a lot of competition for his signature. However, he has the potential to be one of the best players in the world and it would be a statement signing to make many forget about their failure to sign Lukaku.
The next few weeks will show us what Chelsea are going to do in their striker search and it will be interesting to see what their decision is. Antonio Conte has previously been unhappy about the club’s transfer business and this will have been a bitter blow to his plans for next season. As they are going to enter the new season as champions, they need to ensure they do so in a positive frame of mind. The next few weeks could be pivotal in the team’s title defence and the season hasn’t even started yet.