It’s just like old times at Chelsea. Not content with landing Tiago, Jose Mourinho (if the English press is to be believed, anyway) is now preparing to go back to Portugal to sign Carvalho. It’s the summer of 2004 all over again.
Except it’s not THAT Carvalho. Rather than the elegant centre-back Ricardo, who’s now somewhat past his best and plying his trade at Monaco, the target is Sporting’s young defensive midfielder William.
The reports emerging from the media in both England and Portugal are somewhat confusing. Mourinho is apparently moving for Carvalho in order to stop him going to Manchester United, for whom the Portuguese player is a prime target. Chelsea are offering just £11 million for a player Sporting value at about £37 million – but the Blues are throwing in the opportunity to take a Chelsea player on loan for a season. Meanwhile, United are thought to have baulked at paying Sporting’s asking price.
A couple of things don’t ring true about this story. First of all, Chelsea already have Nemanja Matic in Carvalho’s position – although it’s possible that he could be bought as back-up if Mikel leaves. Secondly, is there really a player Chelsea would be prepared to do without whose services for just one season would be enough to convince Sporting to forego a whopping £26 million?
Carvalho would, it’s true, be an excellent purchase by any side. He’s only 22, yet possesses a calmness and maturity about his play which belies his youth. He’s quick, a strong tackler and a first-class distributor of the ball.
He’s exactly what Manchester United need, and Mourinho is canny enough to realise that. It’s quite possible that his alleged intervention is designed to push Carvalho’s price to a point at which the Manchester club pulls out – or are forced into paying far more than it would like.
Manchester United officials have apparently flown out to Lisbon to try to expedite the deal and ward off any thoughts Sporting and Carvalho’s agents might have of talking to Chelsea. The problem for them is that this could be taken as a sign of desperation rather than determination – and may make Sporting even less likely to compromise on price.
And Chelsea’s public interest in the player could well spark interest further afield. Already Monaco are rumoured to be ready with a £27 million bid, and Juventus are monitoring the situation in the event of the Italian club losing Paul Pogba.
Either Mourinho is playing a very clever game, or Sporting are trying to get Manchester United to raise their bid, or Carvalho’s agents are trying to start an auction for his services. The smart money will still be on the midfielder moving to Old Trafford. But the chances of this being the relatively straightforward, bargain-price deal Manchester United might have been hoping for could well have been scuppered.