Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo chose not to play with a recognized striker as his side stuttered to a three goal defeat at the hands of Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday.
The Italian decided to leave main striker Fernando Torres on the bench after a poor run of form, stating that he didn’t want Juventus’ defenders to have a “point of reference” when trying to handle Chelsea’s attacking efforts.
Di Matteo may have been telling the truth, but Torres’ omission from the starting line-up in Turin will have many speculating about the forwards future at Stamford Bridge just two years after his £50 million transfer from Liverpool.
Should the Chelsea manager be allowed to keep his job, which seems increasingly dependent on the Blues progressing to the last sixteen of the Champions League, then it is highly likely Di Matteo will be in the market for a striker come January.
Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao seems to be the target which will be most favored by Di Matteo, though his move will rely on Roman Abramovich being as generous with transfer funds as he was in the summer.
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo has stated recently that the Columbian striker will honor his contract in the Spanish capital, which lasts until September 2016, but Cerezo knows full well the strikers £48 million release clause will go some way to solving the clubs financial problems.
The hefty release clause has priced even some of the richest clubs in Europe out of the market for the 26 year-old, leaving Chelsea, Premier League rivals Manchester City and newly flush Paris Saint Germain as the only clubs with a realistic chance of affording the forward.
A move to Manchester City would leave Falcao competing against a cluster of quality strikers, including Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, for a place whilst Paris Saint Germain have only recently splashed the cash on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with Lucas Moura also arriving in January.
Chelsea, in contrast, only have Torres and Daniel Sturridge as real competition for the lone striker position, with the arrival of someone of Falcao’s caliber likely leading to the exit of Torres who would be reluctant to once again play second-fiddle after just seeing Didier Drogba depart from the club.
Chelsea’s appeal extends further, with the club, despite their current Champions League struggles, being the current champions of Europe, whilst playing in front of an attacking trio of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar would be a mouth watering prospect for any striker.
With Falcao and Chelsea seemingly being such a good fit, questions have to be answered of the future of Torres. What next for the Premier League’s most expensive player after a stuttering spell in the capital?
Torres going in the opposite direction to Falcao may be an appealing prospect for Chelsea, with the Spaniard cutting down a hefty chunk of the transfer fee whilst reuniting Torres with his old club would be somewhat more gracious than shipping their record signing off to the highest bidder.
The striker himself may be less happy with such a deal. Torres left Liverpool with the ambition of competing for top honors, and with Atletico hardly likely to break into the cast iron top two positions dominated by Barcelona and Real the prospect is hardly attractive.
Atletico themselves may not go for such a deal either. Falcao’s sale would bring in a large, much needed, sum of money which would be reduced if a swap deal was in place, not to mention the need to meet their academy product’s high wage demands.
Another Premier League club is an unlikely option. Both Manchester clubs are well-stocked with strikers whilst Arsene Wenger would be reluctant to offer a considerable sum for an out of form striker from a rival.
Liverpool’s supporters made their thoughts clear on Torres when he left, and whilst a return to where he played his best football may have some appeal to the striker the Merseyside club have moved on and found a new front man in Premier League top scorer Luis Suarez.
Mainland Europe seems like the best option for Torres. Italy provides some opportunity, Milan may be looking to make a marquee signing after supporters were left disgruntled following a summer of selling, whilst Juventus’ failure to sign a world class striker in the summer may see them tempted.
Come January it’s becoming increasingly likely Chelsea will be looking to bolster their attacking options in the transfer window, and whether it’s Falcao or another striker Fernando Torres has to make a serious decision about where his future will be.