Antonio Conte has held a place near the top of the betting to be Chelsea’s next permanent manager for some time. His position strengthened even further recently, when reports emerged that a deal to bring the Italian manager to Stamford Bridge had been struck.
So conclusive does that rumour appear to be, that the media have moved on to anointing the former Juventus boss’ first Blues signing.
The name isn’t perhaps the most expected, but would actually make for a sensible acquisition should it pan out.
The prospect of signing Roma’s Radja Nainggolan may not send Stamford-Bridge heart rates racing quite like the thought of landing someone like Paul Pogba, but would still rate as quite a coup for the London club.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool have all pursued the Belgian midfielder in the last two years, while the 26-year-old turned down Juventus and Milan in order to join Roma permanently in 2014/15, following a successful loan from Cagliari.
Clearly, the 17-cap international is highly regarded across the continent and for good reason.
A highly-skilled all-action midfielder, Nainggolan’s chief purpose in the middle of Roma’s park is one of disruption.
More midfielder destroyer than backline screener, the energetic Antwerp native has averaged 3.1 tackles per game in all competitions across his time with Cagliari and the Giallorossi.
While labelling Nainggolan as a pitbullish mischief-maker would be accurate – he has 17 yellow cards to his name in the last two Serie A campaigns after all – it would also overlook his growing offensive game.
He has averaged two or more shots per game in each of the last four league seasons and consistently registers pass-completion percentages in the mid 80s.
Should the 3-5-2-loving Conte complete his Chelsea move as reported, Nainggolan would work wonderfully in a midfield three.
He’d knit together the playmaking of Cesc Fabregas and defensive discipline of Nemanja Matic or John Obi Mikel to form a well balanced middle band at the Bridge. All Chelsea have to do now is make it happen.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.