An immediate priority for Jose Mourinho this summer, and one he can’t really afford to ignore, is going to be the acquisition of another striker.
It’s a strange predicament The Special One finds himself in given that he boasts the joint top goalscorer in the Premier League in Diego Costa and a proven talent at the highest level in Loic Remy. But it’s a predicament nonetheless, one enforced by the fact that Didier Drogba will not amongst the playing staff for another season.
Drogba at Stamford Bridge
The Stamford Bridge hero’s homecoming served as the perfect morale boost for the team heading into Mourinho’s second season in his second spell in west London, and the Ivorian could be rewarded for making the venture by another Premier League winners’ medal.
The decision to bring him back was wise on Chelsea’s part, but realistically speaking they couldn’t have expected more than a solitary season from Drogba, who will be 37 next month.
Perhaps it’s a spot in Mourinho’s coaching staff that awaits the current third-choice striker, maybe he'll slot into an ambassadorial position instead. Mourinho himself won’t be overly fussed; his attention will be consumed by finding as ideal a replacement as is humanly possible.
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The third-choice role
It’s a difficult role to fill all things considered. To spend big on an established talent makes very little sense, both for the player in question and the club. Costa isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, meaning the new arrival won’t be gifted pride of place, and to spend a large figure with the obstacle of Financial Fair Play to hurdle will only be an action justifiable if it’s for a world-class talent in much-needed position.
So Mourinho will approach with caution as he seeks to find a player who is both young enough to not mind having to battle with Remy only for the tag of being Costa’s understudy, whilst also possessive of abilities that allow him to be a game-changer when necessary.
Of the players who fit that bill currently in Europe there’s one man who stands out above other candidates, if not for his impressive goal tally then for the fact that he’s already seen himself linked with Chelsea several times.
It’s been repeatedly claimed that Mourinho has a long-running interest in San Siro sensation Mauro Icardi, who has found himself amongst the superlatives this season thanks to his form under both Walter Mazzarri and then Roberto Mancini. 14 Serie A goals is more than Napoli hit-man Gonzalo Higuain has managed, and just as many as Juventus star Carlos Tevez, to offer an impression of his potency.
Safe to say the kid is more than just a bit good. Having just turned 22 the Argentinian, who made his name at Sampdoria prior to a transfer in 2013, is rapidly becoming one of the most talked about names on the continent, and as he’s still attached to a contract that sees him earn just £30,000-a-week, the subject of his future has been broached far more frequently, and more important more publicly, than Inter will have ever wanted.
Icardi has tried to quell rumours by insisting that he's in for the long-haul, but how committed he'll remain to that statement depends on whether or not things with the Nerazzurri get better in the near future.
The fallen Serie A giants are struggling yet again this term; they sit a canyon apart from Juventus in terms of quality - they’re 22 points behind the league leaders - and unless Mancini can improve results it looks like they’ll miss out on Europe altogether next term. If they do they’ll all but resign themselves to losing gems like Icardi, that’s for sure.
Their loss however can be Chelsea’s gain, with the youngster sure to learn from both the mentoring Diego Costa could offer and the inevitable battle that would take place with Remy to determine who is the go-to reserve option.
Birth of a star?
At Stamford Bridge he could hone his craft for a year or so before really putting the pressure on Costa, and his undoubted ability would serve Mourinho well when the Spain international is either banned, injured or in need of a rest.
Of course footballing purists would point to the plethora of youngsters Chelsea have in the bowels of their system who are currently either out on loan or plugging away in the youth setup. Patrick Bamford is one name that jumps out, though the Blues have often preferred to make cash from their own assets as opposed to nurturing them in the first-team in recent times.
The departure of Drogba will mark the end of an era for Chelsea. Jose Mourinho must use the situation to his advantage so that it also marks the beginning of a healthy new one.
Chelsea fans, would you like to see Icardi come in to replace Drogba? Should Mourinho be looking elsewhere? Let us know in the comments box below...