Marquees for Hire: Pato, Villa, Aguero, Ribery

Earlier this month, the chairman of Chelsea FC, Bruce Buck, confirmed that the club are looking to make a “marquee” signing before the transfer window closes at the end of August – but only if the price is right and the player fits into the current squad.

Buck said: “We are looking for a marquee name but as you know, as you read about it in the papers, most of the big clubs are chasing the same players. We are only going to get one of those top-notch players and there aren’t very many of them.

“And we are only going to get one of those top-notch players if the price is right and he fits into our team appropriately. But we are looking and we are optimistic.”

Ever since then there has been much debate on the blog and elsewhere about who the player could be and whether any of the players linked with the club would fit into the current team. Some have argued that we don’t actually need to sign another player, because the squad is good enough.

My thoughts are that we do require one more player, a proven goal scorer, particularly when you take into account Ancelotti’s preference for playing with two strikers.

Currently, we have Drogba, Anelka, Shevchenko, Pizarro, Kalou, Di Santo and Sturridge who can play up front. The assumption is that both Shevchenko and Pizarro will be shipped out before too long, while Drogba and Anelka will be first choice. That leaves Kalou, Di Santo and Sturridge as backups.

Kalou’s best position is probably as a second striker. But he isn’t an out-and-out goal scorer like Anelka, and he can’t lead the line like Drogba. That said, he does get his fair share of goals every season. There’s no doubting his ability to get into scoring positions, but more often than not he has a brain fart at the crucial moment and makes the wrong decision. If either Drogba or Anelka were to pick up an injury we couldn’t rely on him to fill their boots – or his boots for that matter. To me, he’s an impact player who should be brought off the bench to run at tired defences.

So we’re left with Di Santo and recent signing Sturridge. Di Santo looked good during the pre-season tour of the U.S. Then again he looked good in last year’s pre-season only to disappoint somewhat in games that mattered. The opportunities he was given during the last campaign were limited to substitute appearances in the dying minutes which obviously made it difficult for him to shine, but at no point did he give the impression that he’s got what it takes to score 15-20 goals a season. He’s young and unproven and can’t be relied on just yet. A loan move to another Premier League club is in the offing.

Sturridge on the other hand could have what it takes, even at 19 years of age. He’s already physically strong, he can hold up the ball, he clearly has an eye for goal, and he can also spot a pass – the best bits of Drogba and Anelka combined. The question is is Ancelotti willing to take a gamble on him this early in his Chelsea career? My guess is no, because he’s still a bit raw and far from the finished article. A place on the bench is probably the best he can hope for this season.

So I don’t see a problem with adding another top class goal scorer to the squad. It would result in healthy competition for starting places and keep Drogba and Anelka on their toes – any drop in form like Drogba showed at the beginning of last season would be rewarded with a spell on the bench.

The fact that Buck remains “optimistic” about signing a big name suggests we will see another addition to the squad before the end of August. But who will it be? Will it even be a forward?

Now that Real Madrid have finished hoovering up Europe’s best and most expensive talent, who is there left to buy? Here are just a few of the players we’ve been linked with.

Alexandre Pato

A Brazilian international currently playing for AC Milan, 19 year-old Pato is widely regarded as one of the brightest young prospects in world football. He was just 16 when Ancelotti signed him for Milan in 2007, and obviously our new manager remains a huge admirer. Pato has scored 24 goals in 54 Serie A appearances, according to Wikipedia.

We were strongly linked with Pato when Ancelotti’s appointment was confirmed, but the newspaper stories have dried up in recent weeks. With Milan selling Kaka to Real for £56m they clearly don’t need the money, and they won’t want to lose two of their star players in one transfer window. Even if Roman were to offer a similar amount for Pato, it’s highly unlikely Milan would accept it. More’s the pity.

David Villa

At 27, Villa is at the peak of his career and the oldest of the forwards being linked with a move to the Bridge. His current team Valencia are struggling financially and are said to be half a billion euros in debt: at one point last season it was reported that they couldn’t afford to pay their players or staff. This led to the conclusion that the club would be forced to sell their prized assets in the current transfer window. Real and Barcelona have been linked with both Villa and midfielder David Silva but so far nothing has materialised.

Villa has scored 87 goals in 129 senior club appearances for Valencia. His record for the Spanish national side is 31 in 49 games. He is a natural goal scorer and just what we need. But with Villa repeatedly stating his desire to stay in Spain, and with Real and Barca sniffing around, our chances of signing him look slim.

Sergio Aguero

Aguero has been compared to Fernando Torres and is considered one of the hottest properties in world football (there are several, apparently). At 21 he has the best of his career ahead of him. He has scored 42 goals in 112 appearances for Atletico Madrid since 2006, and has played for the Argentine national team 18 times and scored six goals.

Back in June we were linked with a £45m bid for Aguero but apparently baulked at his high wage demands. Atletico president Enrique Cerezo denied that any club had made an offer for ‘El Kun’ and said that none of his players are for sale. Plenty of club chairmen and presidents have said similar things in the past only to mysteriously change their minds once an extra £10m has been added to the fee, so it’s not out of the question that we could yet sign Aguero. He has a €55m buy-out clause in his contract. We can but dream.

Franck Ribery

Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery has been the subject of pages and pages of transfer rumours in newspapers this summer. The 26 year-old winger has been linked with a move to Manchester United, Real, Barca and Chelsea (Ribery himself declared last month that he would prefer to play for Real). The latest development is that Bayern are willing to sell Ribery but only if the buying club matches the fee paid to United for Cristiano Ronaldo, £80m. This is a ludicrous asking price and only Real would be mad enough to pay it; we could buy two of the above players for the same money.

Apart from the fee, the biggest argument against signing Ribery is that he isn’t an out-and-out goal scorer. Do we really need a winger? With Ancelotti seeming to prefer a narrow diamond midfield, does Ribery fit the requirements? He’s no Ronaldo, that’s for sure. Only in the last two seasons at Bayern has he started to score a few more goals (20 in 53 appearances – before that he was in single figures every season). I’d be very surprised indeed if he ends up at Chelsea.

There you have it. Take your pick and cross your fingers. You never know, one of them might yet be playing at the Bridge come September.

Finally, I was going to include Andrea Pirlo, but in my mind he doesn’t fit the criteria laid out by Buck. An ageing midfielder doesn’t count as a “marquee” name. Besides, we don’t need yet another creative midfielder, unless of course we buy him and sell Deco, which would please a lot of fans.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!