As attractive as the idea may be. I think it is one the new owners at Chelsea should avoid. Yes, it would be a massive statement to sign either player, would attract headlines and open up all sorts of commercial opportunities, but I just don’t think it would work.
For one thing, Cristiano Ronaldo is now 37. If the new owners really want to start a new cycle and build a long-lasting team around the manager, a 37-year-old is not the player to build that team around. For one thing, he would be around for a maximum of two years, three at an absolute stretch. The likes of Matthijis De Ligt and Raheem Sterling, players in their 20s are the players who I believe the club should be targeting. De Ligt, despite some struggles at Juventus, is the consummate modern ball-playing defender. He reminds in some respects of John Terry. Someone who is fantastic in his reading and anticipation of the game, his ability in the air and in the tackle but also is brilliant on the ball. His passing range is fantastic and his ability to carry the ball into the midfield will be something that Tuchel will desperately want to bring back into the squad after Antonio Rudiger’s departure. De Ligt is also a natural leader, having captained Ajax at a very early age, again something Tuchel will prize with the departure Rudiger and the potential departure of both captain Cesar Azpilicueta and vice-captain Jorginho.
With Romelu Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan confirmed, Chelsea will be looking to recruit players in the forward line. The talk so far though, is that Thomas Tuchel is looking to revamp and reorganise his forward line. And this where my reservations about signing Ronaldo really come to the fore. Cristiano Ronaldo does very little in the defensive phase of the game. He focuses on keeping himself in good positions for when his team regains the ball. He saves himself for what he is good at. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest goalscorers the game has ever seen. You would want him to maximise his strengths. But Tuchel doesn’t allow for one player to not act in his team’s defensive phases. All players have to press heavily, and engage in the counter-press as well. All throughout last season, we saw that Ronaldo’s lack of defensive work fed into United’s wider struggles in that area. And with how high and hard Tuchel wants his team to press, Ronaldo just doesn’t seem like he will fit into that. That’s where someone like Raheem Sterling comes in. He has spent the last five to six years playing for Pep Guardiola. Guardiola’s teams are known for their own relentless pressing style, something Pep borrowed from his mentor Johan Cruyff. Sterling knows how to play in that defensive style and has been potent in front of goal ever since he was first under Guardiola’s management. The ownership may be slightly blinded by his star power and status in the game. Wanting to announce the new era with a big name signing is all well and good but if you are trying to reset the club’s recruitment policy, looking to involve the manager more closely in the whole process, signing a 37-year-old Ronaldo is not the way to go, especially if Thomas Tuchel is not happy with the decision.
Neymar poses a different, and yet similar problem. At 30 years old, he is still in his prime years as a footballer and he has worked with Thomas Tuchel before at PSG. From the quotes and stats that I have seen from Neymar in that period, they enjoyed working together and Neymar was fairly prolific in terms of his goal involvements (goals and assists combined). But there are long term concerns that many have about his character and drive. There is no doubt that Neymar is a fabulously talented player, one that people want to see live. But he never comes across as the most dedicated footballer. A player who never takes his talent quite seriously enough. As a person, Neymar is someone that PSG seemed to have given great liberties to. His long holidays in Brazil, his lack of playing time in the league and more. So as a personality, Neymar may prove to be a disruptive influence to the squad, something that I cannot imagine Thomas Tuchel will allow. Not to mention the fact that, having watched Eden Hazard in the Premier League for seven years, Neymar will likely be quickly targeted by opposition defenders and kicked out of the game. Given his long injury absences before, this could see his game time cut even further.
Liverpool and Manchester City have prospered in their recruitment, not by chasing all the big name players, but by being sensible in their targets and taking the manager’s tactics and footballing philosophy as well as their preferred targets into account. And if the Boehly-Clearlake ownership really want to take Chelsea’s recruitment in a new direction, they need to start as they mean to go on, rather than chasing big names to announce themselves. If the more data driven, manager driven recruitment strategy is employed well, Chelsea could be putting the building blocks in place for sustained success over the next few years.