The ideal Fabregas replacement, an overview of Chelsea targets Nicolo Barella and Leandro Paredes
In a league where teams emphasize mainly on athleticism and strength levels to outplay their opponents, there exists Cesc Fabregas, who with his sleek passing and inch-perfect long balls, still continues to assert his authority in the midfield even in his early 30's. He represents a dying breed of footballers, called deep-lying playmaker or regista, who plays a pivot role in possession based systems.
Registas anchor themselves deep in the mid areas, and act as a connecting link between a teams attack and defense. With minimal defensive duties, they are granted positional freedom and as a primary distributor, they receive and pass the ball more in contrast to any other members of the team. Although regista's are not praised much for their work, they are potential game changers and impart an aesthetic element to the game.
Starting his career in the famous La Masia academy of Barcelona, the rise of Fabregas to one of the best passers in the world has been nothing short spectacular. The former world cup winner has unparalleled ability to dictate play with his magical feet.
Although he operated in a rigid defensive system, first under Mourinho and then under Conte at Chelsea, he formed lethal partnerships with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, and was influential in all the success Chelsea had in the recent past.
However, after being forced to play second fiddle to Jorginho under their new boss, Maurizio Sarri, he has now decided to move to greener pastures in search of regular first-team football.
With his move to Monaco to reunite with his ex-Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry done, Chelsea are left with a mammoth task to find a suitable replacement for him. Two names who are being constantly linked with Chelsea are Cagliari's Nicolo Barella and Zenit St Petersburg's Leandro Paredes.
Let us see how Chelsea could benefit from signing both of them.
Many eyebrows were raised when young Nicolo Barella was lined up along with Jorginho and Marco Verratti in central midfield for Italy in a friendly against Ukraine last October. Although Italians were far from impressive in the game which ended in a draw, the electrifying presence of young Cagliari man caught the attention of football fans.
The highly regarded youngster, who is a Cagliari academy graduate, is attracting attention from a number of continental superpowers, including Chelsea and Napoli.
Although he does not make the headlines for his trickery or goal scoring abilities, it his passing range that makes him a potential suitor for the regista role. His traits does not compare well with that of Cesc Fabregas, yet he could still keep the ball moving around in central areas and add the much-needed dynamism that current Chelsea midfield is lacking.
He is also not shy to take a shot on goal when the situation demands. What is more fascinating is his off the ball abilities, which compares with Europe's elite ball winning midfielders including Casemiro and Fernandinho.
In short, Chelsea have in him a double-edged sword, effective both in the offensive and defensive phase. It seems discipline is one area he needs to work on, but his aggression could come in handy for him in a league where super heavyweights clash.
He makes no secret of his desire to play in England as he believes he could assert himself in a more competitive and challenging league. It would be too much upon him to think that he would fill in the creative void left by Fabregas, but his abilities and leadership qualities could make him a cult figure at Stamford Bridge for years to come, if at all his transfer materializes.
Emerging through the youth ranks of Boca Juniors, Leandro Paredes so far has not had a celebrated career when compared to some of notable Boca alumnus, including Carlos Tevez and Ever Banega.
In his early days, he had to get accustomed to showing patience because of the lack of first-team opportunities at clubs he was involved with. But the last couple of years have seen him grow slowly but steadily into one of most coveted registas in Europe, prompting clubs like PSG and Chelsea to develop an interest in him.
The 23-year-old Argentine, a product of Boca Juniors academy, spent time in Serie A playing for clubs including Empoli, Chievo and Roma before his services were secured permanently by Zenit St Petersburg in 2017.
Completing more accurate long balls than any other midfielder in the Russian league this season, his distribution skills go hand in hand with that of Fabregas. Just like his former teammate and idol, Juan Roman Riquelme, his strength is his quick feet.
Paredes has in him the special ability to invite pressure towards him by delaying the pass, thereby catching the opponent out of position and thus setting his teammate on his way into the attacking third.
This is in contrast to his potential teammate Jorginho, who uses quick one-touch passes to breakdown the opposition. He does not offer a dominating physical presence, but more than makes up for it with his composure and precision.
With his classy and swift passes, he could be the perfect one to deputize Jorginho and could even be in line as a future replacement. His squad role and playing time may be far from being assured, but its upto Chelsea to persuade the Argentine to open a new chapter in his life in a more glamorous English Premier League.
The Final verdict
Both players offer different dimensions to the team. While Barella is more of a box to box midfielder, Paredes excels as a deep-lying playmaker, thus a ready-made Fabregas replacement.
Barella is younger of the two, so expect him to be costly. Paredes is more experienced among the two and could be a cheaper option to consider. In terms of attacking prowess, both outshine Chelsea's current midfield regulars Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic.
With Chelsea being recently criticized for their ineffectiveness in front of goal, either could ignite the spark missing in their attack. Now it's upto Maurizio Sarri and his board to decide who suits the system best.