It’s funny how priorities can change so quickly in football. One day you’re celebrating the signing of striker Timo Werner and hyping up a Premier League title challenge for next season. A few weeks later, you’re bemoaning the fragility of your defence as they collapse against a relegation-threatened team.
That’s exactly how Chelsea fans have felt in the last month – with their recent 3-2 defeat at West Ham signalling that greater investment is needed in their backline, and not on signing another attacking star in Kai Havertz. Sure, the Blues may have the firepower to contend for Premier League success next season – but all great title triumphs are built on resolute defending, and not just on goalscoring.
It’s at centre-back where the Blues need reinforcing in the most. At right-back, the fast-developing Reece James looks to be a great long-term fit at the position, and the constant links to Leicester’s Ben Chilwell suggest that club officials have a plan to reinforce down the left. Yet in the middle, there appears to be not one player who can be considered a secure option in the first team – the closest being Fikayo Tomori if he continues to improve.
So with that in mind, who could they target this summer to solve their defensive issues? Here’s a list of centre-backs that Frank Lampard should consider signing in the summer – and how well they would fit in at Stamford Bridge.
A free agent this summer, Silva’s experience and quality would be a huge asset to Frank Lampard.
The PSG defender is comfortable with the ball, with a pass success rate of 95% for this season. He would be a perfect mentor for the likes of Fikayo Tomori, given his excellent ball anticipation and positioning abilities., and would bring a sense of authority to Chelsea’s backline.
Yet at 35 years old, he doesn’t fit the younger age profile of players the Blues are looking to recruit for a future title-winning squad. With his powers starting to diminish, and many clubs said to be in contention to sign him, Silva may not be the player Chelsea need right now.
Suitability Rating: 2/10
With Aston Villa in with a chance of being relegated this season, Mings could be a cheaper option the west London side could consider signing.
While the Villains may have the Premier League’s joint-worst defensive record, the 27-year-old has shown he belongs in the top flight. His calmness and athletic abilities have certainly stood out, and solid displays have led to him receiving a maiden England call-up earlier in the campaign.
But the former Ipswich player is also unlikely to transform the Blues’ backline, and would be taking a massive leap in playing at Stamford Bridge, as he would be under much more scrutiny and pressure to excel. All in all, this may not be the right move for both club and player, who will likely cost around £20m.
Suitability Rating: 3/10
Having been in and out of Barcelona’s backline this season, Umtiti could find himself expendable at Camp Nou – and is said to prefer a move to Chelsea if he was to depart.
The Frenchman is a superb distributor of the ball, having made 92% of his passes this season, and is confident in launching attacks from the back. As well as having great technical skills, his strength and pace make him a tough player for opponents to go up against.
With the Catalans willing to sell in order to raise summer funds, the 26-year-old would certainly be available to sign, and could be available for around £40m.
However, Umtiti has struggled considerably with injuries over recent years. Currently sidelined with a recurring knee problem, he’s yet to have played an injury-free season for La Blaugrana, and any deal for him would be a huge risk for Lampard – one that he may not find worth taking.
Suitability Rating: 3/10
The defender that most will need to Google after this, Veríssimo has had an impressive season in Brazil, and reports in Brazil have claimed that he has since attracted interest from the Blues.
A regular for Santos, the 25-year-old is very comfortable with the ball, while also being strong in the tackle. Brazilian publication Placar named him in their 2019 Team of the Season, and it looks increasingly likely that he will move to Europe, with Atalanta and Inter also interested in the £9m-rated centre-back.
The big concern would revolve around his ability to adapt to the Premier League. Considerable time would be needed to get to grips with the physicality and speed of English football, and he remains very much an unknown quantity, having only played in his native Brazil.
Still, Veríssimo is available at a low price – and could be a huge find for the west London side if he becomes a defensive star.
Suitability Rating: 5/10
The most familiar name on the list, Bournemouth’s Aké could be a shrewd signing for Chelsea, given that he spent many years developing there before leaving in 2017.
Composed on the pitch, the 25-year-old has been the standout player on the Cherries’ roster. He can be trusted in possession and will already have an established relationship with Lampard, whom he was teammates with for two years at Stamford Bridge.
And a return would certainly motivate the player, who will want to prove his quality at his former club. While it would represent the Dutchman’s biggest challenge in his career, he’s now well-equipped to meet the high expectations that would be placed upon him.
It’s unclear if the £40m buy-back clause in his current deal can still be exercised – but if the Blues can beat Manchester City to his signature, Aké could be a great signing – with any fee dependent on Bournemouth’s top-flight status.
Suitability Rating: 7/10
One of the brightest young Ligue 1 talents, the £40m-valued Kamara would be an excellent signing for the west London team.
Able to play in midfield as well as defence, the 20-year-old is highly versatile and can be relied upon to perform well in any position he’s selected for. An accomplished passer and tackler, there’s much to like about him, and he could improve further in becoming a world-class player.
And with Marseille needing to balance their books this summer, they will be open to offers for the Frenchman, who is also wanted by a host of Europe’s top clubs, including Milan, Liverpool and Man City.
With Lampard looking for young prospects to build a future title-winning team, Kamara would be a perfect fit to play alongside Fikayo Tomori in what could be a great long-term centre-back pairing.
Suitability Rating: 8/10
The most sought-after defender in world football, Koulibaly’s presence would instantly elevate Chelsea’s backline and give them the commanding figure they’ve been crying out for.
A complete defender, who blends his natural athleticism with excellent technical skills, the Senegal international can truly do it all. And while it’s been a disappointing season for Napoli, he’s continued to impress, ranking in the top five for successful tackles in Serie A and boasting a passing accuracy rate of 89%.
With sources confirming to 90min that Gli Azzurri are prepared to sell the 29-year-old for a lower fee of £75m, it could be the perfect time for the Blues to make a big splash on a transformative signing for their defence. But with Man City also a keen suitor, it could be a huge battle to land Koulibaly this summer.
Suitability Rating: 8/10
While not at Koulibaly’s level just yet, the exciting potential of Upamecano suggests that the RB Leipzig centre-back could be there in the future – and the west London side should absolutely consider signing him sooner rather than later.
At just 21 years old, he already looks to be a well-rounded defender. A confident ball distributor, who’s unafraid of beating his opponent in the dribble, as well as being a fantastic tackler – he’s got all the tools to be a defensive superstar.
Set to become a free agent in 2021, Leipzig may feel they need to cash in on their prized asset this summer, rather than letting him walk for free next year. It would open the door to a bunch of suitors making offers for the player, including Bayern Munich, Man City and Real Madrid.
But having already done business with Die Roten Bullen for Timo Werner earlier, Chelsea may have the upper hand in negotiating with the Bundesliga club – which could be a decisive advantage in the race to sign Upamecano.
Suitability Rating: 9/10