4956: How will Chelsea replace Drogb
by : Dan Bailey
“They know my will to leave, something has irrevocably broken between me and Chelsea” said Didier Drogba in an interview with France Football last week.
His well taken goal against Middlesborough and his actions at the final may indicate the public nature of his comments were now a source of regret for him, but with the giants of European football now being linked with him it does seem likely that the 29 year-old Ivorian will move on at some stage in the near future.
Drogba has been the focal point of Chelsea’s attack over the last 3 years and was last year the Premiership’s top goalscorer. It was only Christiano Ronaldo’s extraordinary performances that denied him scooping a handful of Player of the Season awards for form that would normally have have won it with ease.
If Chelsea are to continue to enjoy such tactical flexibility logic would dictate that they need to sign a sucessor with not only a goalscoring pedigree but also a physical stature that would enable him to hold the ball and bring others into play. So who could Avram Grant bring in to replace him?
Adriano? He has been heavily linked with Chelsea previosuly but it would seem unlikely that the 25 year-old Brazilian would even be mentioned in the press at this stage. He is man of undoubted talent, as his 25 goals in 35 games for Brazil testify, but has been in a terrible run of form over the last 18 months with Inter Milan and it is improbable he will be given much of a chance to rectify that by January. If the 6ft 3” forward could keep out of the nightclubs he has been reported to frequent (and led to Brazil coach, Dunga, to call for a “change in his behaviour”) he may well regain his touch, and he would have the advantage of not being cup-tied in the Champions League, but it would be an expensive gamble on the part of Avram Grant.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar? The 24 year-old Ajax striker is perhaps the rising star in European football. He is equally adept with both feet, strong, good in the air and capable of scoring a wide variety of goals. He has an excellent goals-to-games ratio and tops the all-time goalscoring charts for the Dutch Under 21s. Of course, none of this will be news to Chelsea’s new Assistant Manager, Henk ten Cate, who was until this month his manager in Amsterdam. The 6 ft 1” striker would apparently cost in the region of £18 million and is perhaps one of the favourites.
Samuel Etoo? The Cameroonian international has history with Chelsea, but with Mourinho gone and Thierry Henry’s place in Barcelona’s side exacerbating the infamous problems he had last season with Frank Rijkaard in particular, the 26 year-old may jump at the chance to move to another club with Champions League aspirations. It is worth pointing though that he will also be at the African Nations tournament in January and there is a question mark over his impact on team spirit. He possesses undoubted talent but should be considered a long shot.
Dmitar Berbatov? Perhaps Drogba’s successor could come from within London. Berbatov has been the subject of much controversy after a ‘trible snub’ to Martin Jol as he continously ignored Jol’s wishes for him to warm up in Monday’s away match at Newcastle. With the uncertainty at White Hart Lane, the man who was heavily linked with Manchester United for £20 million in the summer will surely be tempted by such a move, and he has the undoubted advantage of not having played in the Champions League this season. Berbatov has the physical stature, goalscoring record and skill necessary to earmark him as a potential target in the transfer window.
Lukas Podolski? The ‘young player of the tournament’ in World Cup 2006 has this season been forced out of the Bayern Munich first team by the arrival of Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose. At only 5 foot 11, ‘Prince Poldi’ may be deemed too small for a place on Chelsea’s shortlist but he in fact that same size at Etoo who has performed so magnificently as a lone striker for Barcelona. Like Etoo, Podolski is undoubtedly strong as well as quick and a clinical finisher. At only 22 years-old, the man who had the world at his feet only 18 months ago would surely relish a new challenge away from the Bayern subs bench.
We know little of Grant’s record in the transfer market, but a replacement to Drogba will be needed sooner rather than later, and that man will have some very big shoes to fill. Chelsea’s have looked a far inferior team without him so far in 2007, and it is not overstating the case that it will be this decision that colours Grant’s entire reign as Chelsea manager.