Wednesday night’s clash between Monaco and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League helped confirm one thing even more: Leonardo Jardim has a wealth of talent at his disposal.
So much so, in fact, that the Portuguese manager will be forced to sell a handful of his players in the summer, as ‘bigger’ clubs around Europe are bound to make it very difficult for the Ligue 1 side to keep hold of everyone.
One of those clubs, it seems, is going to be Chelsea, with the Blues reportedly sending scouts to the south of France on Wednesday night, as reported by RMC Sport.
Of the many players available, Antonio Conte has apparently decided to focus on three in particular: Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Thomas Lemar.
Following Manchester City’s exit at the hands of Monaco, we compiled a list of full-backs Pep Guardiola should be looking at to strengthen his side, and what we said about Mendy then still applies today.
“The former Marseille defender has been galavanting up and down that left-hand side in France for a good five years now, ever since he became a regular for Ligue 2 side Le Havre during the 2011-12 season at the age of 17, and he’s only getting better.
In a side set up to attack, Mendy can be absolutely lethal with his boundless energy and desire to go forward whenever he sees space in front of him, with his 10 assists this season only going to show how important he has been for Leonardo Jardim’s side following his £11m move in the summer”
One of our primary concerns with Mendy, however, was his defensive frailties.
Yet, in Antonio Conte’s system with three at the back, the wing-back’s defensive duties would be far from as demanding as in a four man defence, which suits the marauding defender down to a T.
This would allow him to spend most of the team further up the pitch, something he will never say no to.
Much like Benjamin Mendy, the now France international has been linked to a move to the Premier League for so long that we’ve already covered him.
Manchester United were the ones interested at the time, and the midfielder’s performance against Dortmund in the return leg (he missed the first through suspension) will have done little to dispel the interest surrounding him before the summer.
Back in February, we wrote: “The defensive midfielder’s ability to recuperate the ball and instantly get his team on the attack with either a surging run or an accurate pass will undoubtedly be top of most scouting reports on the player.
Making it clear he was never going to leave Monaco in the winter, being in the Champions League knockout round against Manchester City and fighting for the Ligue 1 title domestically, a summer move seems extremely likely for the 22-year-old.”
Much more mobile than Nemanja Matic, a midfield pairing of Bakayoko and N’Golo Kanté in Conte’s 3-4-2-1 formation would be a nightmare to get past for any team.
Furthermore, at around €35m, he would be extremely affordable for a team of Chelsea’s calibre.
This simply makes far too much sense for Antonio Conte to ignore.
Despite being one of the club’s best performers this season, Lemar has probably been linked the least with a move away.
Manchester City and Chelsea have both had their names placed next to the 21-year-old, and for good reason.
With 12 goals and 13 assists in 47 appearances for Monaco this season in all competitions, the twice-capped France international is both capable of finishing and creating at will, and would be ideal playing where Eden Hazard has thrived this season: just wide of the main striker.
Considering the players already at his disposal in that position, however, the only way we see Conte making a move for Lemar in the summer if one of either Willian, Pedro or Hazard leave.
While the first two haven’t exactly been linked with a move away, Eden Hazard most certainly has, with Real Madrid a recurring pain in Chelsea’s backside when it comes to the Belgian forward.
At 21, Lemar will want to continue getting regular first-team football, and unless he is promised just that, leaving Monaco won’t be all that appealing to him.
Recently speaking to Ouest France, his father explained, relayed by Foot01: “There’s no particular plan. We’re in a development mindset, and that happens through playing, which he has at Monaco. Sometimes there are financial aspects we don’t control, but I think the goal is to spend one or two more years at Monaco.”
So for the Ligue 1 star to leave, Chelsea would have to guarantee him time on the pitch, which, as things stand, might not be the case.
Were Eden Hazard to leave, and with Thomas Lemar preferring playing down the left, replacing the Belgium international with the Monaco starlet would make the world of sense.
Who stays, who leaves
Out of the three, the most likely to leave the Ligue 1 side this summer is Bakayoko. Whether that is for Stamford Bridge or somewhere else, however, remains to be seen.
Mendy only arrived in the summer, and while his performances have certainly caught the eye, unless he knows he will play week in, week out, moving makes little sense.
He has everything he wants and needs at Monaco: an attacking side, Champions League football, and a spot in the France squad.
The same applies to Thomas Lemar, who is the mostly likely to stay with the Ligue 1 side out of the three scouted by Antonio Conte, alongside a certain Kylian Mbappé.