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As Chelsea hunt Cavani – is Torres’ time finally up?

“There’s no better place to be than at Chelsea with Mourinho”. These were the unequivocal words of Fernando Torres recently when questioned on his future with Chelsea. Words that exude nothing else but an unmistakable desire to ply his trade at Stamford Bridge this coming season. Compare these words with the “so-so” that Jose Mourinho mumbled recently to describe Torres’s time at Chelsea and you would be forgiven for thinking that things don’t quite add up for Spain’s number 9.

“So-so” – not a direct denunciation of Torres but certainly not a declaration of faith from Chelsea’s new manager either. Mix this with Mourinho’s not-so-secret desire to bring in Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and the signs do not look good for Torres.

The Chelsea faithful are unlikely to shed many tears if Torres’s departure means Cavani is brought in with the two strikers’ goal-scoring records last season contrasting starkly. 26-year-old Cavani scored a staggering 38 goals in 43 games, 29 of which were in Serie A. Torres, now 29, managed 22 in 64 for Chelsea in a season that many considered his best in blue – just eight of those 22 goals however were Premier League goals. To put it bluntly, Cavani is the player Chelsea thought they were signing in Torres from Liverpool – and more. Any fans doubting Cavani’s ability to make the notoriously difficult transition from Serie A to the Premier League should take solace in the success of strikingly similar players Carlos Tevez and Luis Suarez on these shores.

Fernando Torres

One element that Torres has in his favour however is the competition Chelsea may find in landing the understandably much sought-after Uruguayan. PSG are widely reported to have made Cavani prime target number one this summer and are more than capable of outspending even Chelsea yet Cavani, who was relatively quiet in the Confederations Cup, is believed to be eager to ultimately prove himself in the Premier League.

If Chelsea are unable to nab the Salto man it still remains difficult to imagine Mourinho’s Chelsea lining up against Hull in August with Torres or Demba Ba, who managed just the two league goals last term, leading it. Mourinho is likely to line his side up with just the one striker more times than not and he understandably won’t want to hand that responsibility to a player whose light has significantly faded since his Liverpool days.  Stephan El Shaararwy is another signing that Chelsea have strongly been linked with and one that Torres, like with Cavani, is supposedly being used in as a bargaining tool. Chelsea are unlikely to want their most expensive acquisition festering on the bench and are perhaps wise to use him as makeweight for the future development of that forward line.

Chelsea and Torres are believed to be holding talks this week over his future at the club with the Spaniard hoping to persuade his new manager that he still has a role to play at the club, be that with a new strike partner or not. He’ll certainly not want his roll to be as a deal-maker in the negotiations for his eventual replacement.

Torres is still likely to demand a costly fee and, at his best, remains formidable in every department in front of goal. Enquiries for his services will certainly not be shy in coming forward yet the problem for Torres would be convincing potential suitors that he is able to recapture the scintillating form he has shown slivers of at Chelsea and that he is worth a gamble with what would surely be a pricey fee.

If this is indeed the end of Torres’s spell at Chelsea then the question that remains is where next for ‘El Niño’. Perhaps the most likely destination is wherever Chelsea want him, whether that is in Naples or Milan. Barcelona are rumoured to be interested in Torres as a possible replacement for David Villa whose form has, for him, waned since his injury. Torres though has talked down this link, instead deciding to focus on Chelsea and his wish to benefit from the tutelage of Mourinho. After two-and-a-half underwhelming seasons at Chelsea and with Mourinho mercilessly tracking Europe’s elite however, that wish may well be left unfulfilled.

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Didier Drogba 2011-2012: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Didier Drogba has finished his Chelsea career on a high after their historic victory in the Champions League final against Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. However, as well as experiencing extreme highs, the African legend’s last season with the Blues has also seen its lows.

The AVB regime

Just a few games into the 2011-12 season you could already see that the arrival of Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas had caused an upset amongst the old guard at Chelsea. His micromanagement of the west London outfit was heavily criticised; there were even reports that he would stand and watch players who were coming in late at the Blues’ training ground in Cobham. Along with this, his handling of the players came under the microscope after failing to restore £50m Fernando Torres to his former self, and leaving Chelsea legend, Frank Lampard, out of the starting line-up on numerous occasions.

Many will see Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Championship side, Birmingham City, as one of the biggest turning points in AVB’s sacking. After not only failing to beat Chris Hughton’s side on their own turf, a media uproar was caused by a supposed Didier Drogba half-time team talk, that Villas-Boas rashly denied. As well as this, the 3-1 loss at the hands of Napoli, and a 1-0 defeat to mediocre West Bromwich Albion, tipped the balances and forced Roman Abramovich to make the bold and brave decision that paid off massively.

The Di Matteo turn-around

When Andre Villas-Boas’ assistant manager, Roberto Di Matteo, was announced as caretaker for the rest of the season, no one would have thought that they would be holding the Champions League trophy, for the first time in their history, a few months later. The former Chelsea midfielder started off by picking up from where his ex-colleague left off, with a 2-0 away win over Birmingham City in the FA Cup. Almost a week later, Robbie was in charge of turning around a 3-1 deficit against Napoli in the last sixteen of the Champions League, and he delivered with an astonishing 4-1 home win, including an opening goal from Didier Drogba.

The re-ignition of the golden oldies and the new-found harmony in the dressing room was crucial to the 41 year-old Italian’s success and led him on to do an unprecedented double, winning both the FA Cup, with a 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in the final, and the Champions League, after getting through both Barcelona and Bayern Munich – yet again the Ivorian talisman getting on the score sheet for each of those games.

Drogba’s impact

Forever will Didier Drogba be known as the best performer on the big stage after scoring the winning goal in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool and heading in an 88th minute equaliser in the Champions League Final, not to mention finishing the game with the winning penalty. At the age of 34-years-old, there is no doubt the African powerhouse is still a magnificent player and many will say he is the best in the world at what he does. In both the Champions League semi-final and the final, Chelsea were playing with their backs against the wall, and if there is one man you want to boot it up the field to and bring it down under control, it is Didier Drogba.

The ‘nine goals in nine cup finals’ hero will always be remembered as a Chelsea legend, and his humble exit will be have a bittersweet effect on the fans, who will be somewhat disappointed he was not offered a new contract. For many supporters, it is an end that has come too soon and there is no doubt that fans will be devastated that he’s going, but the monumental symbolism of his last kick of the ball for the Blues will stay in the hearts of Chelsea fans forever.

By Jacob Tucker

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham and the transfer battles for Europe’s best this summer

After going head-to-head in the 2011-12 Premier League season, the nation;s top five clubs are ready to do battle off the pitch and in the transfer market this summer. Here are the top five transfer wrangles expected between the Premier League big boys.

Eden Hazard – Manchester United vs Manchester City

Ligue 1 Player of Year Eden Hazard has been all over the media this week after announcing that a move to one of the Manchester clubs was on the cards; there is no doubt that the two fierce local rivals will be desperately fighting over the highly-rated 21 year-old in the coming days.

A dramatic last-day finish meant that noisy neighbours Manchester City were crowned 2011-2012 Premier League champions and considering their quest for world domination, many believe the Belgian starlet will favour a move to Roberto Mancini’s men. However, the young winger could find it hard securing a consistent first-team spot, with David Silva and Samir Nasri already occupying attacking midfielder positions. United however will look to the starlet to reinvigorate an ageing midfield if he moves to Old Trafford.

Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United vs Arsenal

The Japanese winger has been a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s Bundesliga-winning side, getting 13 goals and 11 assists for the German champions this season. With interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund will find it hard to keep their 23-year-old star-man, who is out of contract next summer.

Kagawa has already admitted his willingness to move to England, with a commercial value attached to the Asian superstar for his next side also. United are frontrunners for his signature, however Arsenal are also keen and have a recent track record of buying players from Dortmund.

Edinson Cavani – Chelsea vs Manchester City

Uruguay international Edinson Cavani has had a fantastic season for Napoli, impressing both domestically and in the Champions League, where he found the back of the net against both Manchester City and Chelsea. Both Premier League giants are interested in bringing the South American hitman to England, although City seem to be focussing more on capturing Robin Van Persie as their new attacker. The homegrown pair will be joined in the race by Serie A champions Juventus.

With the supposed exit of Ivorian veteran Didier Drogba, Cavani could be the perfect replacement, and having already shown ability in Europe, he could be exactly what Chelsea need if City purchase elsewhere.

Jan Vertonghen – Arsenal vs Tottenham

Another example of Ajax’s outstanding and prolific youth system, centre-half Jan Vertonghen is currently being fought over by north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

Although rumoured to have already agreed personal terms, the White Hart Lane outfit could miss out on the 25 year-old defender due to the Eredivisie champions’ inflated asking price.

It is obvious that Harry Redknapp is intent on strengthening the defence, and the Belgian centre-back would be a perfect addition to the squad. However countryman Thomas Vermaelen is eager to tempt his international comrade to the Emirates, and Arsenal are still in the hunt.

Robin Van Persie – Arsenal vs Manchester City

2011-2012 Premier League top goalscorer Robin Van Persie has attracted serious interest from newly-crowned champions Manchester City, after scoring 30 league goals and winning the PFA Player of the Year award.

With one year left on his current deal, keeping the Netherlands international at Arsenal will be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s priority list this summer. However, with a natural desire to win trophies at the biggest clubs in the world, Van Persie may be inclined to make a move north to join former team-mates Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri.

Currently undergoing contract talks, the coming weeks will be vital in seeing what the future holds for the Arsenal hero. Money may also be a key issue; Arsenal are willing to shatter their wage structure and offer £130,00 per week, whilst City are thought to be eager to almost double this at £250,000 per week.

By Jacob Tucker

Chelsea to splash the cash this summer: All change in the Roman empire

A win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final will be vital in deciding who Chelsea will attract when the transfer window reopens, but what does the summer look like for the west London club?

Out with the old

Didier Drogba

For the fans at Stamford Bridge, seeing 34-year-old Didier Drogba leave the club will be devastating, as they saw him lead the Chelsea front-line to victory in the FA Cup final. The Ivorian veteran is still a world-class striker, using his physical strength and experience to get those vital goals needed to win trophies. Since joining in 2004 from French side Marseille, Drogba has scored 156 goals for the club and is the highest-scoring foreign player ever to have played for Chelsea. There is no doubt the African target man will be a key part of the Blues’ season-defining game against Bavarian giants Bayern Munich, but after refusing to sign a new deal at the club, his future is doubtful.

Florent Malouda

The French winger has been a great asset for the west London side over the past few years but the 2011-2012 season has seen a rapid decline in playing time and quality for Florent Malouda. With his contract expiring in the summer, a departure from England seems very likely. The 31 year-old has been on the bench for the majority of the campaign, under both Chelsea exile Andre Villas-Boas and interim first coach hero Roberto Di Matteo, but has been particularly of use when resting the first-team before two important Champions League games. If there is one place that Chelsea are lacking, it is deadly wingers – so making space for new blood out wide, will be a priority for Abramovich.

In with the new

Kevin De Bruyne

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder looks a bright prospect for Premier League football and after signing from Belgium champions Racing Genk, Chelsea fans are optimistic that De Bruyne will add that vital creativity and wing play that the Blues really need at the moment. The Belgium international plays predominantly on the left of midfield and looks talented and creative, bemusing defenders with his dribbling skills and has a good eye for goal.

Marko Marin

Nicknamed the German Messi, Marko Marin has suffered a shaky season with German side Werder Bremen, but a £6.5m move to Chelsea could jump-start his career. Much like Belgium counter-part De Bruyne, the 23 year-old German plays predominantly out wide or as an attacking midfielder using his speed, agility, and skill to bring the individual quality that every Premier League side needs. Although scoring few goals for his team, Marin creates chances and has never recorded less than ten assists in a Bundesliga season.

Transfer targets

Willian

Although not as famous as other players linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, Willian is a player of extreme quality and skill. Spending the last five years playing for Ukrainian side, Shakhtar Donetsk, the young Brazilian has come out of obscurity after increasing rumours over a move to the west London club. His dribbling skills are superb and he will hope to form a partnership, if joining Chelsea, with Brazilian comrades Ramires, David Luiz, and youth superstar Lucas Piazon.

Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan hitman has been quite the star for the last number of seasons at the San Paolo, and at the age of only 25 the future looks bright for a player who has shone not only in Italy but also in the Champions League. A player who dominates not only in the air but also on the ground, Edinson Cavani could be described as an all-round striker – able to keep the ball, play the ball, and most importantly, score goals. Napoli’s 25 year-old forward could be a perfect replacement for departing Drogba, but whether he would adept to the Premier League is hard to tell.

By Jacob Tucker

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Inter, Bayern and Real Madrid with work to do

The Champions League quarter final contestants will be decided this week, as the final four fixtures of the round of 16 take place on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. After stellar performances from the underdogs in the respective first legs, four favourites have work to do to make the last eight.

Chelsea vs Napoli

Since the 3-1 first leg defeat to an in-form Napoli in Italy, Chelsea have sacked Andre Villas Boas and will need to up their game if they are to stand a chance of progression; despite domestic wins of late, Walter Mazzarri’s men will pose a more stern test. The hosts need an attacking outlook, but with Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik ready to pounce, John Terry’s role at the back is equally as important as the team’s attackers. Napoli have goals in them, but are also susceptible at the back; this was showcased in their 6-3 win over Cagliari on Friday night. Away goals could decide this tie.

Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow

Real Madrid were expected to walk all over CSKA in the first leg, but the Russians put up an ardent fight to get a 1-1 draw at the Luzhniki through an injury-time equaliser. Jose Mourinho’s men are still in a dominant position to progress, with Cristiano Ronaldo in superb goal-scoring form; the Portugal international has 45 goals already in all competitions this term. The travelling support will pin their hopes on promising attacking duo Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia, but anything other than Madrid progression would be a massive shock.

Inter vs Marseille

Marseille take a slender 1-0 advantage to the San Siro on Tuesday, after a last-gasp Andre Ayew header gave the French side victory at the Stade Velodrome in the first leg. Claudio Ranieri has come under increasing pressure due to domestic inconsistency, and if Inter are eliminated the head coach will fear for his future. Didier Deschamps’ men are not in good form either however, and have lost all four Ligue 1 games since beating Inter in February. The midfield battle will be key to deciding the fixture and should be a pulsating watch, as Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano face Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder.

Bayern Munich vs Basel

Bayern have high hopes for this season’s Champions League as the final will be held at the Allianz Arena, however Jupp Heynckes’ men have stuttered of late and are 1-0 down against Basel after the first leg. The Bavarian giants did have ideal preparation for the second leg by beating Hoffenheim 7-1 on Saturday, with Mario Gomez grabbing a hat-trick. The Swiss champions will look to their excellent showing at Old Trafford earlier in the season as motivation, with Bayern-bound Xherdan Shaqiri the visitors’ fulcrum of attack.

With AC Milan, Barcelona, APOEL and Benfica already in the quarters, four close games will decide the remaining participants. Madrid should overcome CSKA, whilst Chelsea will most likely be eliminated by a classy Napoli outfit. Marseille have the quality to compound Inter’s misery and Bayern should fight back to knock out Basel – just.

Published – Soccerlens

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