It goes without saying but Chelsea have to do everything to get Eden Hazard to sign a new deal.
In a season that has been pockmarked by off the field strife and on-pitch issues, Hazard has been the one attacking midfielder who has consistently delivered. With Real Madrid said to be closing in to get the mercurial Belgian, the Blues have been making frantic efforts to convince the 26-year-old that his future lies at Stamford Bridge.
Apart from financial inducements, there is a need to bring in young, elite-level attacking talents who would assist Hazard and Alvaro Morata in pushing Chelsea to the next level. Attacking options like Pedro & Willian have been too inconsistent and can no longer be trusted.
In view of the stadium rebuilding project and for the sake of building a squad long-term that will be able to compete favourably in England and on the continent, there is a need to attract young attacking talent to the club.
The recruitment team led by transfer tsarina Maria Granovskaia and whoever will be manager next season; be it current manager Antonio Conte or one of the many rumoured candidates like Luis Enrique, will need to follow the example of Manchester City by being prepared to meet the asking price for some of Europe & the world’s best young attacking talents as they offer immeasurable long-term value and are resell-able assets.
Here are five top attacking talents that Chelsea should be looking at:
#5 Max Meyer (Schalke 04 & Germany)
Potential Fee: Free
Another of the German wunderkinds that the Royal Blues have produced, Meyer has been at the Gelsenkirchen based club since he joined the youth-set up in 2009.
The 22-year-old who has been part of the national team set up at all levels boasts of the ability to play either as a playmaker or anywhere behind the main striker which would be a boon to Chelsea as this means that if he signs, he will be able to dovetail nicely with Hazard.
While not the greatest of goalscorers (he has scored just twice this season), his ability to set up chances for teammates as well as his passing range coupled with his low centre of gravity means that if he signs for the Blues, strikers Morata and Olivier Giroud will get plenty of service from this brilliant German.
Set to leave Schalke on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the current season, he is already being scouted by major European clubs and Chelsea would be wise to move in early.
While some at Stamford Bridge would be hesitant given the club’s experience with a player like Marko Marin, Meyer is cut from a different cloth and having captained Germany’s youth teams to win the Euros (U-21) & silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016, he is no stranger to responsibilities and would be the perfect foil for Hazard.
#4 Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad & Spain)
Potential Fee: £35.17m (buyout clause)
A diminutive rising star, he has already drawn favourable comparisons with another La Real youth product; Antoine Griezmann.
Mikel who is nicknamed “Big Foot” is a Spanish winger in the mould of Pedro Munitis but with more nuance to his game. He is very fast over a short distance and capable of dribbling while on the run, his reading of the game is impressive for such a young player.
One of his biggest assets is his awareness about the game as he studies the ebb & flow of the match and usually, makes smart decisions about when to drift infield either in support of the striker(s) or to seek out goal-scoring opportunities for himself.
This fits in nicely with what Chelsea are in desperate need of as of all the attacking players currently at the club, only Hazard has been good at doing this so far this season.
Among the youngster’s greatest strengths is his exceptional crossing ability, which saw him claim seven assists in La Liga last season. He may not be the quickest, but Oyarzabal is always reading the game, assessing the next phase of play and running into space to provide an outlet for teammates.
Given the huge Spanish contingent already at the Bridge, his crossing abilities would be of great benefit to Chelsea’s six-foot-plus attacking pair of Morata and Giroud
A huge fan favourite, Mikel has already gotten 6 goals and 3 assists in the 19 games he has played for La Real in La Liga this season.
He signed an extension in 2016 with a reported €40m clause so Chelsea will have to go all the way if they want to get him.
#3 Yannick Carrasco
Potential Fee: £40m
A national teammate of Hazard’s, Carrasco’s career seems to have stalled and a move to Stamford Bridge would do wonders for the confidence of a player who looked destined for big things.
With his devilry, trickery, eye for a pass and pace, he looked set to light up the big stages when he joined Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid revolution in a €20m deal from AS Monaco in 2015.
He has delivered on certain occasions, among them the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid. In an Atleti team where wingers are expected to track back and harry the opposition, Carrasco has often been guilty of not putting in a shift and is no longer an automatic starter for Los Rojiblancos.
Rumour has it that Atleti will be open to offers for the 24-year-old in the summer; and he would be a great signing for the Blues as his pace and trickery would help open up opposition defences.
Playing alongside a mercurial player like Hazard and with a technically gifted forward like Morata, Carrasco would be able to make decisive runs and contributions to the Chelsea cause.
#2 Leon Bailey (Bayer 04 Leverkusen & Jamaica)
The left-footed dynamo will be an expensive signing but can be Chelsea’s answer to City’s Leroy Sane
Potential Fee: £55m
Quite what happens next for the gifted Bayer Leverkusen attacking player is anybody’s guess but one thing that is almost certain is the 20-year old has the ability to play for the best in the game.
The winger who is left-footed but capable of playing on either flank has been one of the standout stars of the season in the Bundesliga and would be watched like a hawk in the summer by major European teams.
His ability to play anywhere across the frontline would make him an invaluable asset to a Chelsea team whose attacking midfielders more often than not play football that is predictable and easy to read by opposing defenders.
Bailey is already used to switching positions in a young and vibrant Bayer 04 attack (alongside fellow tyros like Kai Harthez & Julian Brandt) so switching to the other flank in order to allow Hazard to occupy the central role will not be a problem for the as-yet uncapped youngster.
Following the examples of former Bayer 04 wingers like Andre Schurrle & Heung-Min Son to the Premier League looks like the logical next step for Bailey and if Chelsea’s management decides to make a move for him, they would be getting a top class young talent who will only get better.
#1 Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen & Germany)
Potential Fee: £65m
It seems redundant to describe Brandt as a rising star given how many games he has played for Bayer Leverkusen since his debut in 2014.
A young German international whose fresh-faced mien belies a devilish trickster who loves nothing more than to run at defenders and cause havoc among opposing defenders.
Capable of playing on either flank or behind a striker, Brandt’s intelligence and dribbling skills would make him a perfect fit for a Chelsea frontline desperately in need of fluidity and extra creativity.
Playing alongside a good runs-making striker like Morata and the experienced genius of Hazard, Brandt’s qualities will be given the perfect platform as while more will be demanded from him, the presence of other, more established stars would take away some of the pressure and give the youngster room to grow.
Parallels can be drawn between the qualities Brandt possess and those of more established attackers like Alexis Sanchez, Neymar and even Lionel Messi himself. He will be just as effective in a variety of positions.
Given his ceiling, a hefty sum would be needed to price him away from the Bay Arena.