Everyone thought that Manchester United were the team that had pulled off the strangest signing of the transfer window with the capture of Anthony Martial, that was until Chelsea waded in with a double defensive deal that left everyone scratching their heads.
The Blues have signed the wonderfully named Papy Djilobodji from Nantes, and at the time of writing have agreed a deal for Reading man Michael Hector. Yes, that’s right the Premier League Champions have brought in a 27-year-old defender from a mid-table Ligue 1 side and a Championship player. Rather peculiar.
The Pensioners’ well publicised pursuit of Everton defender John Stones has ultimately ended in failure. They are believed to have made as many as four bids for the former Barnsley man, but their final offer of £38m was rejected and Jose Mourinho’s men ultimately gave up on signing the Toffees stopper during this window; much to the delight of the vocal away support at White Hart Lane at the weekend.
It was heavily expected that the west Londoners would turn to Ezequiel Garay instead. But a move for the 28-year-old looks to never have been on the cards. Does Mourinho want a younger model? Seemingly so, but to go out and then sign two players who add nothing to your squad is a perplexing piece of business from the Chelsea boss.
Jamaican international Hector, when he does sign, is expected to return to the Royals on loan for the remainder of the campaign. At the age of 23 he is hardly ‘one for the future’ and when he does finally join up with the Blues squad next season he will be behind the likes of John Terry, Kurt Zouma and Gary Cahill. And with Chelsea likely to go back in for John Stones either in January or the summer, he will be well down the pecking order. Hector looks destined to join the swelling ranks of Stamford Bridge employees who spend their careers on loan. He’s sure to be on a flight to Vitesse after pre-season next year.
It’s a baffling addition, as is the acquisition of the Senegalese Djilobodji. The 26-year-old has 12 caps for his country and is a decent defender with a very good left foot. Nevertheless, he has played just two seasons in the French top-flight and is in no way an upgrade on the current crop of defenders at Mourinho’s disposal. Sure, he can play as a holding midfielder and he adds balance in central defence but it’s not as if Chelsea need to scrimp on players in order to cover numerous positions.
The Blues manager has long been lauded and derided for his use of mind games, and it is worth considering that this may be just another psychological move. Is this the Portuguese sending a message to Roman Abramovich, throwing his toys out of the pram at the failure to get him the players he wanted this summer, most poignantly Stones and Paul Pogba.
Then again, it could be a move directed at his underachieving players. It has been clear that his defence has struggled, as has his midfield, and brining in two players that the current crop will see as inferior, could have the effect of boosting Chelsea’s performances on the pitch.
It may seem fanciful to suggest that Jose would use players as pawns in order to produce better results. But would you put it past him? He is a man determined to win, he thrives for perfection and he will do anything within his power to achieve his goals. Look at the situation with the medical staff, go back to him poking Tito Villanova in the eye when he was at Real Madrid, all tactics to garner a reaction in some way or other. He could be at it again.
It looks a massive gamble from the world’s most talked about manager, and it could result in the conceding of the title, even at such an early stage of the campaign. If John Terry really is over the hill, if Kurt Zouma isn’t quite good enough, if Branislav Ivanovic will never be the same, it is hard to see how these two additions are going to have any influence on the pitch. Like many plans put in place by the 52-year-old, this is one more of the mind than of the body. We could be witnessing the actions of an increasingly desperate man.