Former Italy boss Antonio Conte has already stamped his authority on his squad at Chelsea side which was evident in their pre-season games in the US. The manager has brought in a fresh insight that has seen the whole squad gain some extra energy that lacked in the disastrous season that ended with a 10th placed finish. The new manager will have his own brand of football going on at the Stamford Bridge next season and he has his unique requirements in terms of personnel to do it efficiently. So he is now currently in the transfer market, desperate for a central defender who can be a part of his three-man defense at the Bridge next season.
Conte’s first choice, Kalidou Koulibaly, is coming at a huge price tag and seems to be a link that is fading away. After an initial £34m bid was rejected by Napoli the London outfit have placed a new £38m deal on the table but are also reportedly looking at alternatives should the deal fail. That has seen rumors link the Blues with a move for Serbian international Nikola Maksimovic. The 24-year old will cost just around the £18m mark and is an exciting prospect who is also attracting interests from other Premier League outfits. So does the Serbian centre-back have what it takes to excel in London?
Having made 16 appearances as a center back for Torino, an Italian top-tier football club, the 24-year old is one of the very few defenders in the transfer market that has the attributes that can put him in Antonio Conte’s team. Standing at 6ft 3in, the Serbian international is a ball-playing centre-half who is confident with the ball at his feet. He is an excellent passer who has serious dribbling abilities but his biggest assets are his eye for the game and the timing of his tackles. He is confident of his abilities and is a player who will relish the opportunity to perform on the biggest stage. With a manager like Conte helping him, he is not too far away from becoming one of the best in his position.
Moving to Chelsea, he will have to compete with Gary Cahill, John Terry and Kurt Zouma (who is currently injured) along with the likes of Branislav Ivanovic for a place in the starting XI. Cahill and Terry may dominate two of the places in defense in a 3-5-2 formation that Conte favors (if he indeed uses the three at the back system which he hasn’t in pre-season).
You get the feeling that Conte might try out the system if he gets enough players at the back. In that case, the final position, possibly on the left side is a place that is still to be filled and Maksimovic is a player who can make it his own. Obviously, he is still to prove himself at the biggest stage and may not be able to show his potential in the first season in England (Chelsea need a ready-made center back who can slot into the starting XI) he may be a really good understudy for Conte who will find his style of play appalling. He is a player Chelsea can nurture for the future and at his price, he is an absolute bargain.
Even in the four at the back system, he would be a long-term prospect considering Terry’s age, wear and tear.
Do you think Chelsea should make a move for Nikola Maksimovic this summer?