When Nemanja Matić joined Manchester United for £40million it was seen as yet more shrewd business from Chelsea. But the Serbian has shone and it's money Chelsea looks set to spend in order to secure his successor.
The Premier League titleholders have been linked with a move for Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches, though more recent reports suggest they could try to reunite N’Golo Kante with his old Leicester City team-mate, Danny Drinkwater.
Drinkwater signed a new four-year deal with the Foxes last summer, but The Sun report Chelsea have agreed a £40million fee to sign him as Matić’s replacement.
Tiémoué Bakayoko has already been brought in and would likely be ahead of Drinkwater in the pecking order but Antonio Conte still needs options in central midfield.
At 27, the Leicester man is a dogged ball-winner with three England caps to his name. He was integral to his club’s surprise 2015/16 Premier League title win and experienced Champions League football last season.
However, Drinkwater is a different type of midfielder to Matić. Not only is he two years younger, but he is a far more tenacious operator. While the latter is a sound passer, the former is more renowned for his work in the defensive phase.
As you can see from the below graphic, Drinkwater won more tackles per game last season – 1.9 to Matić’s 1.06 – and also completed more passes on average with 58.34 to 52.17.
However, his pass success rate was ten per cent lower, he created 0.25 chances per game fewer, won a lower percentage of his attempted tackles, and completed fewer interceptions.
Those numbers may increase were Drinkwater to play in Conte’s midfield two, but there are valid question marks over whether the Englishman would represent a progressive addition for Chelsea as they look to retain their title and compete in the Champions League.