It’s not confirmed but as far as the whole of the footballing world is concerned, Cesc Fàbregas has departed Chelsea, with a potential move to Monaco that would see him reunited with former Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry.
Who replaces him? They already have Jorginho, Kovačić, Barkley and Kanté but they want someone else, especially with the departure of the magical Spaniard and the injury to Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Nicolò Barella and Leandro Paredes have both been more than mentioned. We’re here to tell you who’s better…
Impeccable ball control and a strong yet almost majestic tackling technique, Nicolò Barella has been the cornerstone of Cagliari’s Serie A survival campaign, as well as their march into the Coppa Italia Round of 16 after beating Chievo Verona away. His bulldog-like 5ft 9in frame makes it nigh impossible to shove Barella off the ball – similar to Lucas Torreira, but the dynamic Italian has way more to offer going forward, averaging at least one key pass per game this season.
Defensively he is solid, averaging three tackles and almost two interceptions per game in the Italian top flight this season. The only negative that I can think of is the time it will take to adapt to the Premier League. The Serie A is renowned for being played at a slightly slower pace than the high-octane English Premier League. With Barella liking a tackle, he could often find himself on the wrong side of the law as he attempts to get up to the pace of the game. Furthermore, Nicolò Barella seems to me, like more of a Ngolo Kanté than a Cesc Fàbregas. If it’s true that the player they are after is one to replace the latter, then Barella may not be the man for Chelsea.
Also, the twenty-one year old’s contract with Cagliari runs up to 2022, which means, if Chelsea wants their man in January, it’ll cost them the full £45m. Worth it for me. Nicolò Barella has the quality.
Taller. Older. I’ll start this off by saying Leandro Paredes is one of the best passers of the football I have seen. His range and style of passes levels with a Toni Kroos, or a Luka Modrić even. Truly remarkable. Zenit St. Petersburg’s number five started his career at Argentinian champions Boca Juniors before sealing a move to Chievo Verona and then Roma the same year. Roma would have loved to hold onto him but Russian money did it’s talking and Paredes joined Zenit in 2017.
Now 24, Leandro has really come into his own, posting an average of two tackles and interceptions per game as well as an average eight through balls a game at a success rate of 95%. About that passing. A modern-day box to box midfielder with both tough tackling and a pinch of South American flair could be what Chelsea need to replace a Cesc Fàbregas that so often carved open defences. Can’t stop thinking about that passing.
What he lacks is discipline and, similar to Nicolò Barella, he may struggle in the amped-up Premier League surroundings and take time to adapt. It’s needless to say that I want to see him in the Premier League, but essentially: Could he do what he does for Zenit in the tight cauldron of someone like Dean Court or Anfield?
If Maurizio Sarri rang me up (although it doesn’t seem like he knows much about anything going on behind the scenes) and asked me who to pick, I’d say Nicolò Barella. At 21, he is one of the finest players, alongside Sandro Tonali, of the new Italian generation. Plus he has fortunately not been picked up by talent gobblers Juventus (YET) so would not come at the premium (£70m+) that I Bianconeri often demand for their star midfielders. Both players will cost a similar price and Nicolò Barella has a little more time on his side to adapt to the harsh lights of the Premier League.
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