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Chelsea’s £30m deadline day signing has protected Thomas Tuchel from Ousmane Dembele risk

Published by on February 2nd, 2022.

Transfer deadline day was very different this time around for chelsea . There was no rush. There was no panic. There was no need to frantically submit a deal sheet to the premier  leaguewith just seconds of the window remaining.

Chelsea’s executives could, for the most part, sit back and relax. Their work done or perhaps never even started given the Blues didn’t make any genuine attempt to add a signing to squad.

The situation was very different at the end of the summer transfer window. Come the final hours of August 31, Chelsea were locked in a three-way transfer deal and their prospective addition was the first domino that needed to fall.

That was, of course, Saul Niguez. The Spaniard was prepared to leave Atletico Madrid for the Premier League after 13 years with the Spanish club and the Blues had structured a loan deal. Saul’s departure would enable the La Liga side to re-sign Antoine Griezmann from Barcelona, who in turn would recruit Luke de Jong from Sevilla.

Saul’s switch to Stamford Bridge was on, then off, but eventually on again. Chelsea submitted their deal sheet to the Premier League with three minutes to spare and the move was announced within an hour of the window closing.

The Blues paid an initial fee of around £4million for Saul and agreed upon an option to sign the Spain international permanently for £30m at the end of the 2021/22 campaign.

“I am very excited to start this new challenge with Chelsea,” the midfielder said after his deal was confirmed. “Blues fans, I am one of you now and I can’t wait to wear the shirt, start training and see all of you.”

Saul’s arrival was not one Chelsea had banked on heading into deadline day. Sure, the Blues were keen to bring in a midfielder and the 27-year-old had previously been on the radar of head of international scouting Scott McLachlan, but it wasn’t until Atleti felt they could bring back Griezmann that Saul was allowed to depart.

“On August 30, Atletico told me I couldn’t leave. On August 31, they told me I could,” Saul admitted in an interview with Fabrizio Romano on Twitch.

Saul’s signing – which got the approval of Tuchel – was one of opportunity by Chelsea. And it seemed largely risk-free given the option to buy was an option rather than an obligation.

However, Saul’s opening four months with the Blues proved incredibly difficult. His first two Premier League starts resulted in the midfielder being brought off at half-time; the pace of the top flight was too much for the midfielder.

It wasn’t until late December that he started to look more comfortable in the Chelsea starting XI. That being said, he has only featured three times in 2022 with Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic ahead of Saul in the midfield pecking order.

“He is more confident and in better shape. A huge step forward was the performance against Tottenham in the Carabao Cup,” Tuchel said earlier this month. “The adaptation has gone further and you can see he is more open, understands more, and has had much more impact than at the beginning of the season.”

That it took Saul almost half a season to adapt to life at Chelsea is an important lesson. And it’s one that the Blues have seemingly learned from given their business this month.

Barring a push to bring back Emerson Palmieri – a player Tuchel had already worked with – from his loan spell at Lyon, the Blues didn’t launch a major play for a new signing this window.

Not Adama Traore. Not Sergino Dest. And importantly in the final stages of the window, not Ousmane Dembele.

The Barcelona winger is out of contract in the summer and the La Liga giants were desperate to move him out of the club this month, either on loan or permanently.

Chelsea are understood to have an interest in Dembele and he is a player Tuchel hugely admirers having worked with the Frenchman at Borussia Dortmund. However, the Blues didn’t launch a serious attempt to bring him to Stamford Bridge this month.


Given Tuchel already has seven attackers – Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech – in his squad, that is no surprise. Nor is the fact the Blues weren’t willing to pay a fee and wages for a player they have a chance of signing for free in less than six months.

That is the time for Chelsea to make their move for the Frenchman. Not in the dying minutes of a transfer window. The Blues have learned the hard way as to why.

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