Antonio Conte has arrived at Chelsea with heightened expectations following Italy’s impressive run in the Euros where they progressed to the Quarter-finals before eventually being beaten by Germany on penalties.
The Blues had a disastrous last season which culminated in Jose Mourinho being sacked for a second time at the Bridge and a poor 10th place finish (which for a moment looked like being worse). Antonio Conte’s appointment has raised hopes of a revival and the former Italy boss has set a Top 4 finish as a realistic target for the upcoming year. Having beefed up his midfield with the addition of last season’s stand-out performer N’Golo Kanté and Michy Batshuayi, the team is already looking better equipped to achieve their targets in the upcoming season.
While Chelsea have always strived for a balance between attack and defence, the tactics of Conte are expected to bring about a perfection to that line of thought. With Gary Cahill showing signs of inconsistency and John Terry expected to have a limited role to play this season, signing a centre-back has been of paramount importance for Chelsea.
They have been involved in talks with Napoli since the beginning of the window but have reportedly been issued a hands-off warning by Napoli over their pursuit of Koulibaly. The price is rumoured to have crossed £45m and the Chelsea have apparently got the hint Napoli are in no mood to sell their coveted centre-back.
This has led them to another Serie A club, Lazio, and according to latest links Chelsea are keen on a deal for their centre-back Stefan de Vrij.
Stefan de Vrij began his career at his local club VV Spirit, and debuted as a professional for Feyenoord aged 17. He spent five seasons at the Eredivisie club, serving briefly as captain, before joining Lazio in July 2014. He has been a Dutch international since 2012 and has earned over 30 caps for the senior team scoring 3 goals in the process. He was in the playing eleven which finished third in the 2014 World Cup.
The Dutch defender has impressed so far in his career and at the age of 24 will be a long-term prospect for the club. He is renowned for his concentration throughout the duration of the game which leads to minimal lapses and his ability to intercept and his tackling prowess is top-notch. Lazio, who are unstable financially, are likely to cave in for a bid of around £15m, which will not be a deterrent for the Blues. The deal (which is almost 1/3rd of Koulibalys’) provides good value for Chelsea, who must have kept a tab on the fitness of the player who was injured almost throughout the last campaign with a knee injury. He has however worked his way to full fitness and has appeared in a friendly over the summer.
De Vrij would provide excellent value for money if he can steer clear of injuries in the frenetic nature of the Premier League. Though this is not completely up to the player, he should go through the prescribed fitness regime in order to avoid a relapse of the injury.