The Blues reportedly had an eye on The Tiger, as they were linked with a move for Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao.
Perhaps it was the need for a player who could hit the Premier League ground running, or maybe Roman Abramovich had reservations about splashing out astronomical sums of money in January on a striker who made his name at Atletico (one can’t imagine why…), but either way it was that Newcastle fans waved bye bye Ba-by to their top scorer as he moved to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea activated his release clause, believed to be £7.5m, to secure his signature.
Ba scored 16 league goals last term, and had been leading Newcastle’s scoring charts again this season with 13 goals. Even with the caveats that are his supposedly dodgy knee, many ‘advisors’ who seem mostly interested in lining their own pockets, and of course his worrying syrup addiction, it represents value for money in a window where that is often hard to come by.
He began repaying the fee straightaway, with two goals on his debut, in the FA Cup. With Torres’ renaissance under Benitez looking more like a false dawn, the Spaniard with as much confidence in front of goal as a teenage nerd in front of the popular girl at school. In the latter scenario, at least, the boy will end up with a good education and well paying job, while the girl will doubtless have a 5-a-side team of kids by the age of 21. Torres, at the moment, looks like he’ll end up more like the girl. Give it a couple of years and he’ll be serving McDonalds.
At around the same time that Chelsea were celebrating signing Demba Ba, fans of West Brom were celebrating the fact that their own leading scorer wasn’t headed to Stamford Bridge, even if he does technically belong there.
Romelu Lukaku joined the Baggies on a season-long loan in the summer, after a frustrating first season in England following his big-money move from Anderlecht.
The young Belgian would not have expected to start too many games at Chelsea upon arrival, but with Didier Drogba, Torres, Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge all ahead of him (for part of the season, at least), he found first team opportunities few and far between, and indeed it was surprising he wasn’t loaned out sooner.
The 19-year-old has been the revelation in a team that has itself been one this season, bullying defences in a manner that belies his age, albeit not his bulky 6’3” frame. He has displayed great aerial ability, and demonstrated he can score goals in and out of the box (he has nine in total, this season). Comparisons to Drogba may be somewhat lazy and unavoidable – it is a media rule that all young, promising players but be ‘the next…’ somebody as opposed to simply being themselves – but there are of course similarities there, and Lukaku could do a lot worse than modeling his game on his former teammate.
With Torres’ form hit and miss (he hits the ball; misses) and the sale of Sturridge to Liverpool, many had expected Chelsea to exercise their option to recall the Belgian either instead of, or as well as bringing in Ba.
As it is, they decided he was better off playing regular first team football, rather than returning to sit on the bench. It was a sensible decision for all parties, quite surprising when you consider one of those parties would sack a manager just months after winning the Champions League.
If the striker’s short-term future is at the Hawthorns, it is less clear where his future lies for next season and beyond.
Abramovic and whomever he installs as manager in the summer – Jose? Rafa? Me?! – are likely to be in the market for a high-profile, marquee striker. No matter the manager, you’d imagine Falcao would top the wishlist, although Man City, Real Madrid and PSG are all likely to rival them for his very expensive signature.
If they fail to land the Columbian, then other likely targets will probably include Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain. Fernando Torres, meanwhile, may find himself heading out the exit door, quite possibly in a return to Atletico, either in a swap, or as a replacement, for Falcao. If he decides to eschew his burgeoning career in the fast-food industry, that is.
With a new striker likely, and Ba only six months or so into his contract, it would seem unlikely Lukaku would find himself as a Premier League starter next season if he were to return to Chelsea.
You can’t imagine they’d want to let such a promising player leave permanently, at least not without a profit on their investment, yet the player himself would probably feels he should be playing not only regular Premier League football, but in Europe as well.
He’s certainly a player approaching a crossroads. Which way he turns could have a big impact on his future, but he certainly does not want to be standing still. Especially in London, he’ll be hit with a massive congestion charge.