Incorporating a new signing into the team is always fraught with risks. Can he adapt to the demands of his new manager? Will he adapt to the new style of play? Will he cope with the pressure of the huge price tag?
Michy Batshuayi’s move to Chelsea comes with all of these risks. He arrives in England for a reported £33m having never played in this country before. Therefore, it would be easy for Chelsea fans to worry that he may follow in the footsteps of several other forwards – Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres, for example – who have commanded huge fees and expectations, but delivered little.
To keep these worries at bay, fans often look for good omens. Any Chelsea fans worrying about Batshuayi won’t have to look far. After all, he has followed a similar path to Stamford Bridge as one of the club’s greatest ever players – a certain Didier Drogba.
Both Drogba and Batshuayi had nomadic youth careers, never settling in one academy and instead representing several clubs. Both players then began forging a career in rather humble settings. Drogba played for Le Mans and Guingamp in France, while Batshuayi broke through at Standard Liege, in his native Belgium.
The next move of both players’ careers is where the comparison really takes hold. Marseille signed Drogba for about £3m and, after a breakthrough season in which he scored 19 goals in 35 Ligue 1 matches, sold him to Chelsea for £24m.
It was also at Marseille where Batshuayi made his name. They signed the now 22 year-old for £4.5m after he scored 44 goals in 120 matches for Standard. His first season in France saw him mainly warm the bench as back-up to Andre-Pierre Gignac. But after Gignac’s departure, Batshuayi stepped-up to become Marseille’s attacking focal point. 17 goals in 36 Ligue 1 matches convinced Chelsea to once again hand Marseille a big fee for an exciting young striker.
But before we all get too giddy with memories of the great man, it’s important to note that the two players do differ. Whereas Drogba was over 6 feet tall and combined incredible pace, power and skill to become a one-man strike force, Batshuayi is, for now at least, slightly less formidable. He is 5 feet 11 inches, so shorter than Drogba. He is also quick, strong and technical, but has a way to go before he is on the Ivorian’s level.
The reaction to Batshuayi’s transfer in the press has generally been positive. It was widely acknowledged that he was one of the most-sought after players in this transfer window, and for that reason alone Chelsea should be commended for wrapping up the deal early. Marseille’s president, Vincent Lebrune, said that 15 clubs wanted his star man this summer.
However, a few have questioned the transfer fee of over £30m, calling it excessive. While it may seem that way, it can easily be explained by two factors: Marseille’s ability to demand a large fee for such a coveted player, and the new television deal that guarantees a premium on any fee for a player moving to the Premier League.
Others have also suggested that Batshuayi is a little raw, as shown by his place behind the Liverpool duo of Christian Benteke and Divock Origi, as well as ex-Chelsea man Romelu Lukaku, in the Belgium pecking order. But at just 22, and with his wandering youth career, this is no surprise.
So what can Chelsea fans expect to see from their new striker? Given his relative inexperience, it’s likely that Diego Costa will still be the Blues’ first-choice frontman when the season starts. But Antonio Conte is known to favour playing two strikers, which means that, should Conte not add another striker to his squad, Batshuayi could well be in line for an immediate starting role.
To please Chelsea fans still further, London rivals Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Ham, as well as European giants Juventus, were also interested in Batshuayi. If he continues to follow the path laid out by Didier Drogba, Chelsea will have got themselves a bargain.
Contribution by Joe Shread