Frank Lampard seems timeless. At 35 years old, the English international is a familiar face for many a Chelsea fan.
But Ryan Giggs, he is not; having slowed down in pace on the field, it looks as though Lampard’s time at Chelsea is coming to a close, and now the club, and manager Jose Mourinho, will have the tough job of transitioning Lampard out of the team. He has already given Lampard a bench role at the club. Finding a replacement for the talismanic Blues icon won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary move that the club must make to sustain itself for the future.
Juan Mata is the obvious choice, alongside Oscar and Ramires. Chelsea has an abundance of midfielders who can perform consistently and with flair. A midfield triangle of the aforementioned three would certainly give Chelsea a stronger body than most starting line ups in the Premier League.
However, Lampard offers something more; he’s a box-to-box midfielder who, like Ramires, can play defensively and offensively, but, unlike Ramires, can also pick out a pass from out of nowhere, and also has a strong free kick boot. There’s also a clutch element to Lampard; the Englishman has been known to score goals when the team most needs him – that won’t be simple to replace.
Here are five players Chelsea ought to take a look at in January:
Nimble on the ball, smart off it, and with an astute ability to turn an pass, Banega is one of those midfielders who doesn’t bring much attention to himself, but boy is he consistent.
The Argentine creative midfielder has been a regular at Valencia, barring last season when he picked up a foot injury from a car accident. He’s played in over 165 games for his team, and is also an Argentine international. Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United have already targeted Banega so a move to the Premier League may not be far away for the midfielder. If Chelsea is looking to sign another player in the middle of the park, the team will have to work fast to get his signature.
Paulo Henrique Ganso
Neymar may be connecting with Xavi Hernandez at Barcelona, but before Xavi, Neymar relied on the impressive passing and movement of Paulo Henrique Ganso. This Brazilian international is known for two things; his passing and his goal scoring. Ganso has a wicked long shot and can pick a pass from across the field with ease. He isn’t the fastest midfielder but he can dribble through defenders at times. It’s a matter of when, not if Ganso will be making a switch to Europe; his latest move was from Santos to Sao Paulo, but there has been interest in the player since 2011.
He’s also a heavily marketable option in Brazil – his Twitter handle is @SamsungPHGanso, and he has over 1.3 million followers, making this midfielder an instant icon for Chelsea, too.
Sevilla’s captain Rakitic has already caught the attention of Manchester United (http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/manchester-united-want-alberto-moreno-2860291) and Chelsea has also been linked to the man. Rakitic is a Croatian international who has all the skills and vision from deep in the midfield to play in a similar style to Lampard. He also offers a defensive contribution to Sevilla, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed at international level, where he plays in a higher role.
It’s certainly possible that Rakitic would make the switch to the EPL sooner rather than later, but as a captain, it’ll take a bit more cash to separate the player for the team, something Chelsea has in abundance.
At 19 years old (but 20 tomorrow, happy birthday!) Everton’s English international is a prospect player but could very well be another Frank Lampard in the future. He has been a part of the English national team set up since 2008, playing for every level of the youth team from U16 to U21, before being called up to the full national team by Roy Hodgson in August. This signing isn’t one that would immediately replace Lampard; instead, those duties would fall onto the shoulders of players like John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, Ramires and Oscar. Juan Mata may need to move into midfield more often, instead of playing as a second forward or a winger, his natural positions. Still, as a project, Barkley could certainly be one to watch for Chelsea.
Lazio’s Italian midfielder Candreva impressed during the 2013 Confederations Cup, enough so that a team like Chelsea could be looking to pick him up before the World Cup this summer. Besides a cheeky chip to beat Casillas in the Confed Cup, Candreva is the kind of midfielder who knows how to link up with others well. He’s adaptable, moves with intent and while he lacks the kind of vision and creative of Banega and Rakitic, he more than makes up for it with consistency and hard work. He can also be used as a winger out wide, and he is certainly capable of beating his defender. This kind of versatility could make him a good option at a Chelsea team with many moving pieces.
Manchester United were interested in his services in the summer, but Lazio said no. His contract runs until 2014, but if Chelsea were to make a strong enough offer, Lazio could sell him.
Any one of these signings could help Chelsea transition from the old guard into the new. There are rumours that Ashley Cole could see a similar exit from the club, with MLS outfit New York Red Bulls seemingly interested in his services. John Terry will need to go through a similar transition period. This is, in truth, one of the hardest parts of Mourinho’s second spell at Chelsea. Having brought up these three English icons, Mourinho must now see that these aging stars have adequate replacements in place for their retirements or sales.
It’s a hard job, but this January, Chelsea could very well take a step forward for the future.