With Chelsea having splashed the cash to bring in Antonio Rudiger from Roma for £34 million, and in a defence still looking fragile with Kurt Zouma set to head out on loan, a number of fans were shocked to one of last summers’ top targets on the move without interest from Chelsea. That came as Leonardo Bonucci, Antonio Conte’s defensive general at Juventus and with Italy, completed a £30 million move to AC Milan.
Chelsea did not make any attempt to hijack the deal, content with their current options, in a move which may surprise many. In fact, the Daily Mail claim that the decision was that of Antonio Conte, after the Italian was impressed by the form of David Luiz last season, having signed on deadline day in August.
It perhaps says more about Conte’s low expectations for the Brazilian than anything else. Luiz did perform above and beyond what anyone expected, with maturity, consistency and calmness that made him look a completely different player from the one at Paris Saint-Germain and his first spell at Chelsea.
It is logical to assume that the two would not function together in the squad too. Both play centrally in a back three and are big characters both on and off the pitch, who are unlikely to be content sitting on the sideline on a regular basis. With both players now aged 30, with only nine days between their birthdays, it seems unlikely that they could learn to adapt to a new role.
On the other hand, it does seem strange that, at a price of £30 million, Chelsea did not make a move for Bonucci. A player who Antonio Conte knows well, he could have added depth to a Chelsea backline which is lacking in top level experience and leadership after John Terry’s departure.
Overall though, it seems that Conte may have been justified in his call. In spending similar money on Rudiger, Chelsea were able to bring in a younger player who can play in one of the wider central defensive roles, giving more freedom to use Cesar Azpilicueta as a wing back or rotate the Spaniard and Gary Cahill.
Whilst it is a shame that Chelsea have missed out on one of Europe’s top defenders, it’s clear to see why Conte could not see how he would fit into the squad.
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