Antonio Conte's defensive plans haunt two Bundesliga clubs
Antonio Conte's Chelsea stole the deadline day headlines by welcoming David Luiz back to the club, along side Fiorentina full-back Marcos Alonso. This was after spending months targeting big-named defensive options all over Europe. Rumours about Leonardo Bonucci, Alessio Romagnoli and Kalidou Koulibaly floated around all summer, before Chelsea decided to bring back Luiz to replace the ageing pair of John Terry and Gary Cahill. The faltering Chelsea defence from last season has already found some respite this season with the deployment of N'Golo Kante ahead of them, but Conte has his sights set for the future.
There are few people in and around Stamford Bridge who would doubt John Terry's regression with age. Though they will proudly proclaim his legendary status, yet they would prefer him in a mentoring role at the club rather than seeing him start games against top European sides. Gary Cahill's story is getting worse with every season as the England international has failed to exude confidence amongst the Chelsea faithful, despite making over 200 appearances for the club. Just like Pep Guardiola had plans for the goalkeeping spot at Manchester City, which did not turn out very well for Joe Hart, Conte would have similar aspirations concerning his defensive options, and that could turn out poorly for Hart's international teammate. Considering Terry's eventual retirement and David Luiz's defensive lapses, Antonio Conte is expected to be considering more futuristic options and none of them would include pairing up Branislav Ivanovic alongside Cahill.
So after exploring the Serie A in 2016, Conte has now laid out plans to prowl the Bundesliga, where one of Chelsea's own has made serious claims to fame. Andreas Christensen is in the second year of his two-year loan spell at Borussia Monchengladbach and has been marked to feature prominently in the Chelsea defence in the future, alongside the recuperating Kurt Zouma. Christensen has established himself as the premium centre-back in Andre Schubert's back-line and will be featuring in the Champions League again this season, a competition which his parent club will not participate in this time. Christensen has acquired enough experience and first-team action in the Bundesliga to be able to stake a direct claim to the Chelsea spot next season. Gladbach put in multiple offers during the summer to permanently capture Christensen, and there are reports suggesting that they are ready to make a club-record £21 million offer in the January window. The player himself has chosen to stay away from such decisions and has admitted that he is focussed on his new season with Monchengladbach, rather than securing a return to Chelsea.
"I have not talked to [Chelsea] about my situation, no. I've only talked to them about what I would like to have as feedback and video from them after my matches. I find it hard to choose, so I choose to not really think about it."
The resistance displayed by Chelsea so far is a good pointer to their scheme regarding the Denmark international and despite the best efforts of Die Fohlen, Andreas Christensen is expected to bid adieu to the Bundesliga next season.
The other target for Chelsea from the league of the World Champions is TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's Niklas Süle. The Hoffenheim youngster has matured through the youth ranks of the national team. He was part of the Germany squad which won the Silver medal at the 2016 Olympics and made his first appearance for Joachim Löw in the friendly against Finland last week. Süle’s agent Karlheinz Förster confirmed Chelsea's interest in an interview with the Bild -
“Yes, there was interest. They [Chelsea] have made it clear that their interest will remain valid next year.”
The recent influx of Bundesliga superstars into the Premier League has left the door wide open for the rest of them. Süle has three years left on his contract with Hoffenheim, but a cash-rich incentive and the opportunity to work with a top manager could force both the player and the club to pay more heed to the interest from the London club.
Christensen will be 21 next summer while Niklas Süle turns 22 this September. Along with the 21-year old Zouma, Antonio Conte is currently looking at three young and capable centre-back options, all of whom are yet to be mentally moulded into a particular style of defense. Conte who has worked with the legendary "BBC" (Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini) over the years, would prefer having a similar set of players at Chelsea. Cahill is over 30 and Luiz will celebrate his 30th birthday in April next year, while Ivanovic and Terry are on the wrong side of their age. Conte is preparing the perfect blueprint to set the future rolling for Chelsea and the procurement of the two young Bundesliga stars would signal a great step in the process. The transfer window comes with its own surprises and what the future holds cannot be ascertained; but for now Christensen's mixed message and the confirmation by Süle's agent will haunt the immediate futures of Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim respectively.