Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
Antonio Conte took charge at Chelsea in the summer of 2016 and since his arrival at Stamford Bridge the Blues have been regularly linked with world-renowned defenders.
Conte’s Chelsea have compiled what seems to be an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League, and much can be attributed to their resolute defence. Chelsea boast the most clean sheets in the Premier League with 13, and are second in goals against after conceding only 20 in their first 27 matches.
So, one might ask, why would Chelsea need to buy another defender?
Conte has used a 3-4-3 formation that was his blueprint at Juventus and for the Italy national team, and since its inception the Italian coach has started the same three players as a back-three: Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill.
In effect, Marcos Alonso is now operating at the left side of midfield while the only replacements Conte has for his rearguard are Kurt Zouma, who has only recently recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out for seven months, and the ageing John Terry, who has made just five appearances this season.
Conte recalled Nathan Ake from his loan spell at Bournemouth in January but the fact is he is not exactly spoiled for choice and a summer bolstering of his defence may be necessary.
Without further ado let’s take a look at three defenders Conte could look to acquire…
Chelsea transfers: 3 defenders on Conte’s wishlist
Having played in Conte’s 3-4-3 system for Juventus and Italy, Leonardo Bonucci would be a perfect fit for Chelsea.
The Italy international helped Juventus win an unprecedented five Serie A titles in a row and his excellent performances were recognised as he was credited with the Serie A Footballer of the Year award for the 2015-16 season.
Bonucci has played alongside compatriots Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini for both club and country, and though perhaps not as acclaimed as the latter two, the 29-year-old is certainly just as important.
Bonucci’s recent spat with Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri makes a summer exit more probable but according to talkSPORT, Real Madrid may offer Juventus as much as £51m for the world-class centre-back.
If Conte wants to reunite with Bonucci he may have to pay more than expected given Zinedine Zidane’s interest.
The towering presence of Kalidou Koulibaly could be a worthwhile addition to Chelsea’s defence. The 25-year-old is one of the best defenders in Serie A and has interested clubs like Inter, AC Milan, Everton and Lazio.
Conte attempted to lure Koulibaly from Napoli last summer with a bid of £50m but the Senegal international’s exit was blocked by Napoli’s club president.
Recent reports, however, have suggested that Napoli’s prized defender could be enticed by a move to the Blues if the Italian side fails to qualify for next season’s Champions League considering that only three Italian clubs will feature in Europe’s most illustrious competition instead of four.
Conte’s admiration for Koulibaly is publicly known, but just how much would he have to pay for Napoli’s star?
Antonio Rüdiger has had a fine season for Roma thus far and Conte may pursue the German international after reports that the defender is reportedly open to a move to England after being subjected to racial abuse during Roma’s tempestuous derby with Lazio.
The 23-year-old has been on Conte’s radar since he arrived at Stamford Bridge and a move to London seems possible if Chelsea are willing to pay around £30m.
The 6 foot 3 inch centre-back is young and still has room for improvement but regular first-team football for the Blues seems indistinct considering the talent of Chelsea’s back three at the moment.
Nevertheless, if rumours are true that Rüdiger wants out of Italy then he would be a valuable asset to Chelsea in terms of covering for any defensive absentees.
— Antonio Rüdiger (@ToniRuediger) March 7, 2017
Words: Eliot Eagle