The transfer window has been open a mere five days, and it’s already reaching the point at which Chelsea must decide whether they really want a new centre-back to support John Terry and Gary Cahill – and if so, which one.
The club has already made a few cheeky inquiries about Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, been mentioned in the context of hijacking Manchester City’s bid for Elaquim Mangala, and seen itself strongly linked to the Atletico Madrid stopper Miranda.
But could a surprise new name become a target for the Blues? He’s made a bit of a splash at the World Cup, he already plays in the Premier League so no acclimatisation difficulties, and now he says he’s looking for a move – step forward Tottenham Hotspurs’ Jan Vertonghen.
Vertonghen has had what might be called an interesting World Cup for Belgium. He gave away a clumsy penalty in his country’s first game against Algeria, then scored the winner against South Korea. He had an assured game against the USA, then looked out of his depth in the quarter-finals versus Argentina. To be frank, he’s looked far better going forward than he has as a defender.
Vertonghen is apparently unhappy at Spurs because they keep playing him at left-back – as did Belgium in Brazil, for that matter, but that’s by the by. It’s ironic that one of his more marketable qualities is his versatility across different positions when it’s that versatility which sees him played out of what he regards as his position.
He told the Daily Mail last season: “We have had some injuries on the left of defence at Tottenham and it has often been down to me to fill the gap. Tottenham pay my wages, so I have to accept it, but it doesn’t suit me, and the club know how much I want to play centre-half.”
Vertonghen isn’t a bad player. He’s a tough, aggressive tackler – some would say over-aggressive – he can pass, and he gets forward into dangerous positions. And as we’ve seen, he’s versatile. On the down side, he’s clumsy, has lapses of judgment and frequently finds himself caught out of position by clever attackers. It would be difficult to see what the point was of getting rid of the infinitely superior David Luiz (criticised for making the odd mistake) and replacing with an even more error-prone player.
Vertonghen may well be on the move this summer. But given the quality of the recruits available to Chelsea, it would be a massive surprise to see him end up at Stamford Bridge.