THE rumour refuses to go away, but it seems Chelsea’s reported pursuit of Erling Haaland is destined to end in disappointment for last season’s Champions League winners.
Chelsea are said to be willing to bid as much a £150m for the prolific Norwegian, even offering the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham to Borussia Dortmund as pot-sweeteners. But BVB have remained resolute in their refusal to sell the highly sought-after 21-year-old, despite the fact he has a €75m release clause which becomes active next year.
So if Chelsea have to look elsewhere in their search a new striker this summer, here are five Haaland alternatives they should consider.
There has long been a sense that Romelu Lukaku has unfinished business at Stamford Bridge.
The Belgian was only 18 years old when he signed for Chelsea from Anderlecht in 2011, and he went on to make just 15 first-team appearances for the club, scoring no goals, before he joined Everton.
It was rumoured that east London was his preferred destination when he was weighing up a move away from Goodison Park in 2017 and Chelsea were, for a while, frontrunners to make him the first marquee signing of the Antonio Conte era, until Manchester United stole a march and snapped up the striker.
LUKAKU SMASHES! pic.twitter.com/rUcA6Gt07X
— quintomoroessocampioneditalia (@Pana72Stef) July 28, 2021
Now 28 and after two successful years under Conte at Inter Milan – in which he has scored 64 goals in 94 games and led the Nerazzurri to their first Serie A title in a decade – Lukaku has established himself as one of the very best strikers in the world, delivering fully on all the promise that led Chelsea to splash around £17m on him as an unproven teen.
And with Inter’s financial struggles likely to necessitate the sale of some of their title-winning stars, Chelsea would be wise to look to a familiar face if Haaland can’t be acquired.
Swedish striker Alexander Isak would represent a cheaper alternative to Haaland this summer … albeit only marginally.
In an attempt to ward off growing interest in the 6ft 4ins, 21-year-old striker, Real Sociedad tied him to a fresh contract after he impressed, despite a scoreless showing, at Euro 2020. The new terms saw his release clause increased to €100m and former club Dortmund were bought out of their €30m buy-back option.
Still, though, much like Haaland, any move for Isak would represent a serious long-term investment, such is the young striker’s vast potential.
He scored 17 goals in 34 La Liga appearances last term, and his all-round game combines pace, dribbling ability and a savvy movement inside from wide positions that has seen him likened to Arsenal legend Thierry Henry and former Chelsea star Nicolas Anelka.
Like fellow La Liga standout Isak, Villarreal striker Gerard Moreno was scoreless at Euro 2020, despite making five appearances in Spain’s run to the semi-finals.
After the season he had enjoyed a club level – in which he scored 30 all-competitions goals and led the Yellow Submarine to Europa League glory, beating Manchester United on penalties in the final – many expected the 29-year-old to be a Golden Boot contender at the European Championship.
But Moreno exhibited another string to his bow at the Euros, registering two assists, to add to the seven assists he provided in La Liga in 2020-21.
Although he is at the opposite end of his 20s to Haaland and Isak, Moreno’s £64m release clause would make him a more affordable option.
If Inter are reluctant to sell Lukaku, even in the face of their financial woes, they might instead be forced consider sizeable bids for the Belgian’s gifted 23-year-old strike partner.
With two goals in three games to help Argentina on their way to a first Copa America triumph in 28 years and having contributed 17 Serie A goals and six assists to end Inter’s title drought, Lautaro Martinez has enjoyed the most productive season of his career.
AND JUST LIKE THAT ARGENTINA TAKE THE LEAD
Messi sets it up and Lautaro Martínez sends it home pic.twitter.com/zl0X0Yw6c2
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 7, 2021
The 29-cap Argentina star would likely command a fee comparable to Isak’s release clause. But with long-time suitor’s Barcelona out of the running for his signature thanks to their own fiscal issues, Chelsea could have a clear run at Martinez.
Going from potentially signing Haaland in a block-buster British-record deal to picking up Danny Ings on a free would likely disappoint most Chelsea fans, but the three-cap England striker would be a smart short-term addition, keeping the Blues’ powder dry for a bigger-name acquisition next summer.
Ings struggled desperately with injuries in four years with Liverpool earlier in his career, but his quality has never been in doubt and he has demonstrated that with Southampton over the last three seasons, in which his return of 46 goals from 100 appearances represents a more than respectable return.
Ings, a free agent after his Southampton contract expires next season, would add an experienced, reliable, low-cost option in attack for Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, who could rotate the 29-year-old in the centre-forward position with Kai Havertz and the misfiring Timo Werner.