Chelsea watched as Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani, two of world soccer’s most proficient and in-demand goal scorers, made big-money moves to French clubs. While the Blues may have tracked the South American duo for months, they only really had eyes for Wayne Rooney.
The Manchester United and England star is unhappy at Old Trafford, and there’s a good chance he’ll leave before the summer transfer window closes on August 31. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho made a spectacular return to Chelsea in June after a months’ long courtship. He promises to bring stability, identity and, of course, major trophies to Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho’s presence can make the first two happen, but he needs some help on the third. The squad he inherited finished third in the Premier League — 14 points behind champion United — and failed to advance past the UEFA Champions League group stage. Victory in the UEFA Europa League is worth celebrating, but that doesn’t change the fact that Chelsea resides outside of the ranks of the elite at home and abroad.
Chelsea spent over £225 million ($342 million) on transfers during Mourinho’s first reign at Stamford bridge, £102.2 million ($155.4 million) came in the first of his three-year stay. Things are different this time around, as “the Happy One” doesn’t have a book of blank checks with which he can work. Mark Schwarzer, Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel arrived for a combined £27 million ($41 million), which is just short of half what PSG paid for Cavani. Schurrle and van Ginkel are young and talented, but neither has the fee or reputation to merit the tag of “marquee signing.”
Instead, Mourinho must work with what he’s got and improve the players that currently make up Chelsea’s youthful and robust squad. Surely, he knew he would have a (relatively) limited transfer budget when he was negotiating his return, and we have to assume he’s comfortable with it.
But Mourinho is still one of the game’s biggest personalities, and it wouldn’t be like him to arrive without a making a splash. That’s why he and Chelsea directors are so keen on Rooney as an impact signing. Landing a fit and motivated Rooney would weaken the defending Premier League champion, strengthen Chelsea’s own title credentials and make a success out of Chelsea’s limited summer spending spree. Signing Rooney, England’s biggest star, would also increase the attention Chelsea receives from fans and pundits, as they would scrutinize everything he says and every move he makes. After all, the 2014 FIFA World Cup is less than a year away, and Rooney, 27, is at the ideal age to shine on the world’s biggest stage.
On Wednesday, Sky Sports reported Jose Mourinho confirmed Chelsea had made a transfer bid for Rooney and that the England international is Chelsea’s last remaining transfer target.
“Now we have nothing more to say [about Chelsea's interest in Rooney],” Mourinho said. “We want the player, we made the bid and now it is up to Man United and we respect their decision.
“We don’t want to make public the bid but it is just a certain amount of money and it doesn’t involve players or players in the possibility of negotiation. No Juan Mata, no David Luiz.
“We did what we had to do in a proper way, in an ethical way, and we’re very happy with our behavior. It was clean.
“Now I keep doing what I’m doing, working with my players, trying to improve my players, and we’ll see what happens. Now he’s with Man United, not with us.
“From me no more comments with respect to Man United, my colleague [United manager] David Moyes and my players.”
We now know that Chelsea’s interest in Rooney has jumped from “rumored” to “concrete.” While Arsenal, Bayern Munich, PSG, AS Monaco and other rich European clubs are reportedly interested in Rooney, it’s widely believed that Chelsea leads the chase for the unsettled United forward. Fans shouldn’t be surprised if and when he moves to West London. Mourinho has been on the job for over a month, and he has yet to receive that big “welcome home” gift from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Mourinho has admired Rooney from afar for many years. Chelsea just might drop that balding, burly jewel of a player into his waiting hands.
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