Since Antonio Conte was named as Chelsea’s manager over 14 months ago, it’s safe to say that the rumour mill has not held back on linking the ex-Italy manager with moves for his compatriots. From stars such as Leonardo Bonucci and Marco Verratti to more questionable names along the line of Emanuele Giaccherini and Graziano Pelle, almost every player who was capped under Conte has been tipped for a move to Stamford Bridge.
One of the names that’s clung onto the Chelsea bandwagon from start to finish, more or less, is Inter Milan’s Antonio Candreva. The right-winger was linked with the Blues last summer, before making a €22m to Milan from Lazio after Euro 2016.
After an inconsistent season, Inter are reportedly ready to cash in on the 30-year-old to fund a move for Sampdoria’s Patrik Schick and a centre-back – potentially Eliaquim Mangala or Shkodran Mustafi. This would mean that, despite being rebuffed earlier in the summer, Chelsea could sign Candreva for a fee in the region of £25m, according to The Mirror.
As has so often been publicised since the turn of the decade, Chelsea have a very stringent policy on recruiting players of a certain age. The club are incredibly hesitant to purchase any player of 30 years or over, with Yossi Benayoun being the only player to arrive at Stamford Bridge in his thirties since 2010. Candreva would break such a policy, and at £25m would also represent a significant outlay on a player whose value will only decrease.
Whilst experience is something that should be valued by Chelsea – with the departures of John Terry and Nemanja Matic – the Italian is unlikely to bring anything that the Blues already have, and subsequently you would think that an alternative player would be able to be found that is under the age of 30 and that makes more sense financially.
What do the stats say?
Candreva only completed 48 dribbles last season – the 32nd highest in Serie A – and made only 28 tackles, which would be worrying to Conte if he intended to play him in the right wing-back role for the Blues. That being said, the Italian was only dribbled past 28 times in the whole of the 2016/17 season and in a Conte system, he would be better protected, especially in the Catenaccio tactic.
Attacking wise, it is a remarkably more impressive showing by the winger. He made the second highest number of key passes in the league, with 83, and the joint-third highest number of assists with ten. Out of those ten assists, five came by crossing which is the same number as the whole of the Chelsea squad created last year.
The impressive nature of the Italian’s creative statistics implies that maybe his purchase would be carried out with the right-wing spot in mind, and not the right wing-back role. If Candreva was to join the Blues, then he would certainly bring a more traditionally wide-dimension to the attack than Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard.
Better options out there
So if his statistics are so impressive, then why is this not a no-brainer for £25m? Well, for a start, there are better options out there on the market. Chelsea’s pursuit of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been no secret this summer and, despite Arsenal’s reluctance to sell, a deal still looks possible due to the 24-year-old’s contract situation.
Like Candreva, Chamberlain would be able to play at both right wing-back and right-wing, as well as in the middle if required. He is six years younger than the Italian and finally looks to be developing into the player that we all expected him to be a few years ago.
The England international has had an electric start to the season – despite playing out of position at left wing-back – with 15 (out of 17) successful take-ons, nine shots taken and five key passes made in just two games. Although Chamberlain would cost Chelsea closer to £40m than £20m, his homegrown status would be invaluable to a team that is severely struggling to fulfil their quota.
Other, more youthful, alternatives to Candreva could be Lazio duo Felipe Anderson (24) and Keita Balde Diao (22) – who is reportedly available for a similar price to the 30-year-old – Leicester City’s wantaway star Riyad Mahrez (26) or Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi (23). Whilst negotiations may prove slightly trickier, and more costly, the long-term benefits would be far superior to signing Candreva.
That being said, we only have eight days left of the window, and beggars can’t be choosers at this stage of the summer. As a last-resort, Candreva is an astute acquisition for a club that has been renowned for so-called ‘panic-buys’ in recent times. The Italian would be no Papy Djilobodji or Michael Hector but, at the same time, the club should battle until the end for Chamberlain or one of the other targets, as it could be the difference in a title charge.
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