Manchester United’s latest signing Romelu Lukaku was said to be Chelsea boss Antonio Conte’s No1 target this summer.
Now that Lukaku has made his way to Old Trafford, do you think Chelsea have made a mistake in failing to land £75m Lukaku?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.
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MATT MONAGHAN SAYS YES
A summer of discontent has enveloped manager Antonio Conte. Failure to match unbridled success on the pitch with lethal application to the transfer market has, reportedly, left the Italian on the cusp of resignation. Sound familiar?
For Juventus in 2014 you can now read Chelsea in 2017, following the critical mistake of letting a move for No1 target Romelu Lukaku slip through their fingers. Manchester United’s ruthless usurpation this week has seen the Blues’ former charge go from in the bag, to into a rival’s shopping trolley.
Sunday’s recruitment of raw Germany and Roma defender Antonio Rudiger will not come close to repairing the seismic rifts still rippling through Stamford Bridge as we speak. With no obvious other domestic option, Chelsea’s lethargy is forcing them to gamble.
Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata comes with a prohibitive price tag which caused United to recoil, plus a lack of experience as a regular starter for an elite team. The fee for Torino and Italy’s Andrea Belotti is even higher, his achievements less notable.
A volte-face if no realistic alternative can be mined, however unlikely, about resident hit man Diego Costa’s future would also heap embarrassment on Conte. A reflection upon the recent history of both the coach and his employers on the King’s Road exhibits the perilous folly the parties now find themselves in.
Fallibility in the market is something Conte has experienced before, to explosive effect. An inability to land Alexis Sanchez, Juan Cuadrado and – fatally Juan Iturbe saw him erupt and hand in his resignation after three years of regenerative success at Juve.
At Stamford Bridge two years ago, Jose Mourinho went from title winner in May to sacked by December as the fallout from an abysmal window – headlined by the fruitless John Stoneschase – ruptured his reign.
If Chelsea want to continue making history with Conte, then they must be dutifully aware of mistakes from the past.
JAMES PIERCY SAYS NO
Lose a physically-imposing striker who’s averaged 19.6 goals a season in England; sign a physically-imposing striker who’s averaged 23.6 goals a season since 2014.
It’s a simple equation which helped guide Antonio Conte towards identifying Romelu Lukaku as Diego Costa’s natural replacement with the Spain international heading to China and/or Atletico Madrid. However, Conte is furious with Chelsea’s indecision as the Blues have been gazumped by United.
But the Italian need not dwell on this hiccup, because there are other options for the Blues, alternatives that may actually suit Chelsea better than the one that got away.
A large part of Chelsea’s season will be focused on the Champions League, a competition Lukaku’s only experience of is four appearances in the qualifying rounds as a teenager at Anderlecht.
He may well become a Champions League-quality striker but such is the demand placed on Conte, he doesn’t have the time to wait. Especially not if he’s paying £75m for his new man.
Alvaro Morata and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have both scored 11 Champions League goals, in 35 and 26 appearances, respectively, and represent faster, more all-round and flexible alternatives to Lukaku.
At 28, Aubameyang may offer little resale value but has a good injury record and is a relative late bloomer, so has at least three seasons left at the very highest level.
Neither, of course, have precious Premier League experience but both have already travelled and shown they can produce in two different leagues, so adding a third to their resume shouldn’t be an issue, especially given how poor the average Premier League defender is.
If Conte does want more of a longterm project, he could go for Andrea Belotti, 23, at Torino or Ajax’s Kasper Dolberg, 19. Both appear world-class strikers-in-waiting and should prove more affordable than Lukaku, albeit with a far greater risk-reward. Theoretically, £75m should get you a lot more than just Romelu Lukaku.
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