After the official announcement of Diego Costa’s transfer to Chelsea yesterday, our ransacking of Atletico Madrid’s title winning side looks to officially continue this week with the long expected procurement of Brazilian left back Filipe Luis Kasmirski for around £20m. Our impending fourth signing of the summer then is one which will provide the team with something it’s been missing for at least two seasons now – primed and natural quality in the left full back position. Cesar Azpilicueta took up the role admirably well last season, but with the release of Ashley Cole and the likely sale of Ryan Bertrand, investment in the position was obviously needed .
There seems to be an interesting debate surrounding this deal, however. Despite the fact almost no one contests that the Brazilian instantly improves the XI and with it, probably the team’s title chances for next season also, there do seem to be some concerns over the player’s age. Filipe will be 29 when the season begins meaning there is unlikely to be any room for development and also very little re-sale value, meaning the success of the investment is entirely dependent upon the player adapting and contributing to the side from the very beginning. But here are four reasons why I think the age of the player should not be a concern…
1) Firstly, and most obviously, I think he is a better (defensive) full back than any younger player we could’ve feasibly signed. Whilst Luke Shaw, Alex Sandro, Alberto Moreno, Ricardo Rodriguez etc might have all represented better long term value and supplied more attacking flair, none are in the same league as the Brazilian when it comes to defending the left flank. In fact, there probably isn’t any one better (of any age) in all of Europe at that particular job, with the only superior defensive full backs in the world, in my opinion, World Cup finalists Pablo Zabaleta and Philipp Lahm, being predominantly right sided.
2) It’s also worth remembering, 29 isn’t that old, especially for a defender, and even more especially for a defender as tactically sharp as Filipe, who should be able to adjust his game to any loss of pace he may suffer in his 30s, not dissimilar to the way Ashley Cole managed. I think we’ll see at least three full seasons of his top career form, and possibly a fourth as well.
3) Thirdly, perhaps the most important thing to consider is that, far more so than any of the aforementioned younger left-backs, Filipe is perfectly suited to this Chelsea team under Mourinho. Coupling, as he does, a phenomenal level of energy and willingness to run up and down the flank all game with tremendous amounts of discipline and defensive awareness. He emphatically ticks the only two boxes the manager requires his full backs to fill. And though he may not be a terrific crosser, he is a very tidy and accurate short passer of the ball (an underrated quality for a full back, I think), whilst technically he’ll be more than good enough to effectively work the overlap with Eden Hazard, hopefully building up the kind of killer partnership his lack of familiarity with the position prevented Azpilicueta from forming with the Belgian last year.
4) And finally, since 2011, with one or two exceptions, the priority of our recruitment work has been to sign young talent, predominantly as a tactic for dealing with FFP directives but also to freshen up an aging squad which had reached the height of its collective powers when it won the double in 2010. As a result the current squad, relatively speaking, is a young one. Even with an experienced backline, of which 28 year old Gary Cahill will be the youngest member, the average age of the starting XI next season will be comfortably under 27 (assuming Courtois and not Cech will be first choice keeper). And so for once, I think we can afford to be slightly more short-sighted than normal. We’ve been planning ahead for long enough and it’s now been too long since we won the league title. Filipe is the best signing for right now, which makes him, in this particular situation, the best possible signing we could’ve made.
Anyway, whilst on the subject of new defenders, I find myself a little confused by the club’s decisions regarding our three most promising young centre halves. There doesn’t seem to be much doubt at this stage that all three of Kurt Zouma, Kenneth Omeruo and Tomas Kalas are talented enough and tough enough to play centre half for Chelsea in the future, it’s obvious that none are likely to become anything more than 4th choice for the position next season. However with the sale of David Luiz, one of them was always going to have to remain at the club as cover, rather than go out loan. And given the manner of the debut interview he gave for the club’s website last week, it appears that one will be Kurt Zouma.
I think this is a strange decision for two reasons. Firstly, of the three I think the Frenchman has done the least to prove himself ready for the role with Kalas coming in and performing excellently in league matches at the end of last season and with Omeruo starring for his country at both the World Cup and ACON in the past 18 months, both seem comfortably further ahead in their development than Zouma at the moment. And secondly, of the three, Zouma has been by far the most hyped and widely tipped for superstardom. I don’t personally have much a clue how good he is but from what I’ve read, he sounds like the most likely to one day become a world-class player for the club. And so at 19 years old, surely he is the most in need of regular football so that he continues to develop and fulfil his immense potential. Obviously another year on the bench wouldn’t be ideal for Kalas or Omeruo either, but I can’t imagine it being as detrimental to their development as it would to the Frenchman, at this stage of their career.
Either way, hopefully all three have good seasons with plenty of game time. If anyone can think of a good reason why the club were right to retain Zouma and loan Kalas and Omeruo, please share it in the comments section, I’m interested to see if people agree.