£100 million or nothing. Whether Moises Caicedo is “worth” that or not can’t be the question. Brighton are the selling club who have the asset on their books so they decide what he’s worth. If the buyer agrees, then the deal can take place. So far, it looks like Chelsea don’t. After a recent £80 million bid was rejected by the Seagulls, even some Chelsea fans are imploring the club to leave this chase and move on to someone else.
Here are a few alternatives for Chelsea who would be far cheaper than the Ecuadorian and fulfil the same role in their midfield. These are the wild card choices in the sense that they are not big names, but stylistically, they fit Chelsea’s midfield ideally.
However, to suggest the replacements, we first need to look at what Moises Caicedo does as a player –
Moises Caicedo style of play
He came to Brighton as an out-and-out destroyer, as someone who broke up play with his interception and tackling skills then passed the ball to his more technically proficient teammates.
It was a simple role, which was purely defensive.
Since then, working under Graham Potter and Roberto de Zerbi has allowed him to blossom.
Caicedo today is an all-action midfielder who is ever-improving in the technical areas of his game. He has become a good passer, regularly breaking the lines with his incisive deliveries to forward players.
The next step in his development will be to become a good dribbler, so he can carry the ball instead of passing it.
His improvement trajectory has mirrored that of Declan Rice, who started out similarly as a purely defensive midfielder, even deployed as a CB, before his attacking game came to the fore and he became a well-rounded box-to-box threat. Caicedo is not there yet, but his trajectory has shown that he is on his way.
So, now that the Moises Caicedo style of play is out of the way, which players could be his alternatives?
At 28, Valentin Rongier doesn’t exactly fit the Boehly playbook of buying young. However, if Pochettino is looking for a seasoned professional who fills that particular role for which they’re targeting Caicedo, Rongier is the ideal candidate.
Just like Caicedo, the Marseille man is proficient in the first-phase buildup, i.e., taking the ball from his centre-backs and passing it forward.
FBRef ranks him in the 86th percentile for progressive passes/90, with 7.27. Caicedo, for comparison, is in the 74th percentile with 6.28.
Rongier is a passing metronome at the base of the midfield while acting as a good screener out of possession. He ranks in the 87th and 89th percentile in tackles and interceptions respectively, bringing to the fore his defensive qualities.
With his contract running till 2026, Rongier won’t exactly be cheap, but Chelsea could easily get five good years out of him. Considering the financial problems in Ligue 1, they might even get a discounted price.
AC Milan’s Rade Krunic is not exactly stylistically similar to Caicedo, as he is more defensive and lacks the quality in possession, but in Chelsea’s midfield, he’ll arguably be the best partner to Enzo Fernandez.
The current Blues squad has an abundance of players who like to operate in the space behind the striker. Even Enzo Fernandez, despite starting from deep, does his best work when he breaks lines.
In such a team, a workhorse player who likes to sit deep and just circulate possession without any danger is an ideal cog in the wheel. Krunic is not a goal threat, and at 29, he is unlikely to ever be one.
However, he does his best work as an industrious midfielder who runs around, breaks up play, and gives the ball to his more skilful teammates. He is a ball-winning machine which any team with free-roaming attackers could use.
In a Chelsea team brimming with technical maestros who can unpick the lock on any defense, a player like Krunic will provide a shield which the opponents will find difficult to break through.
If reports are to be believed and Juventus have made Locatelli available for about £25 million, then there should be a queue for his signature.
The 25-year-old is the quintessential deep-lying playmaker.
His defensive game has come on leaps and bounds since signing for Juventus. He made 32 appearances last season in Serie A as he became one of Massimiliano Allegri’s most trusted lieutenants.
Just like Krunic, he is good at breaking up play by sitting in front of his defence, closing the gap between the lines. He combines that defensive nous with super ball circulation abilities.
He will even fit the age profile of this Chelsea team as Pochettino seeks to create a new squad in his image.
Anything around £25-35 million should be a great deal for the Blues because he is clearly worth more than that based on his talent. This is the no-brainer pick as even if he doesn’t work out, they’re unlikely to make a loss on him as his current asking price is a huge bargain.
Onana stands at an enormous 6 foot 4 statute and this physique at 20 will definitely turn out advantageous when it comes to facing the carcass of English football.
Frank Lampard was asked about Amadou Onana in his post-match interview when he signed for Everton – and how he watches him fitting in the Everton squad, he was abounding in praises for the Belgian international stating, “I see him as more of an eight for us. But the way we played today [Saturday] which is playing two sixes, kind of in-between a six and an eight playing with someone else, he can absolutely do that. Whether we want to play with two sixes, or a six and two eights, he can do all of those positions.” – and this is exactly what Chelsea need, someone who is going to complement Enzo for Chelsea in that midfield pivot while playing different roles as based on where the possession is.
He has the pace, long legs, agility, footballing brain, and fearlessness to steal the ball from opponent’s nose. The youngster has not been a wonder with the ball under his feet but has surely been the world-class talent that he is with movements away from the ball.
His game sense is second to none and reads the game as fast as he runs. We have seen him run back to his box to help the defenders and a lot of times not let them come into play by making interceptions before the attackers reach his box.
Although his passing and dribbling abilities aren’t his best traits – his contribution in both halves of the pitch cannot be understated. Though, as earlier stated, he brings much needed presence in the heart of the park and could be an asset from the dead-balls either way. His work rate impresses at the highest level, especially when it comes to blowing up the opposition’s attack when they are progressing forward, denying them a second to breathe by positioning on the shadows and often putting in some clean tackles with either foot. The intensity he adds to the game, with the ability to help the team build up from the deeper positions is exactly what Chelsea have been vouching for.