After weeks of difficult negotiations, Chelsea have finally secured the midfield signing Antonio Conte wanted.
Tiemoue Bakayoko has completed a £40 million move from Monaco, paving the way for Nemanja Matic — who has been training alone since the Blues players returned to Cobham for preseason training on Monday — to be sold.
Bakayoko’s price tag makes him the second-most-expensive signing in Chelsea’s history, surpassed only by the £50m deal that brought Fernando Torres to Stamford Bridge from Liverpool in January 2011 (though Alex Sandro will eclipse both if his reported £61m move from Juventus comes to pass).
It is also the largest fee that Chelsea have ever paid for a midfielder, beating the £32m paid to acquire fellow France international N’Golo Kante from Leicester City last July. Given that Kante went on to sweep virtually every individual award while propelling the Blues to the Premier League title last season, it’s safe to say expectations for Bakayoko at Stamford Bridge will be high.
Every transfer carries an element of risk, and Bakayoko’s body of work at the elite level is smaller than most. He enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence at Monaco last season after two years of being viewed as an unfulfilled talent, and he only earned his first international cap for France in March.
Yet history suggests that when Chelsea splash out on a central midfielder, they generally know what they are doing. Prior to Kante, the most expensive player ever signed by the Blues in the position was Cesc Fabregas, who joined for £30m from Barcelona in the summer of 2014. The deal looked to be good value the day it was announced and proved to be a bargain.
Fabregas brought a new level of imagination to the Chelsea midfield and registered 18 assists as Mourinho’s men claimed the Premier League title in 2014-15. This season he managed 12 assists, helping the Blues become champions again and bolstering his reputation as one of English football’s most impactful players despite starting just 13 matches in the league under Antonio Conte.