As the sun shines over Stamford Bridge this summer, there is a section of the club that no one dares to venture into.
Other than the occasional beaming light, it is mostly shrouded in grey mist, with painful memories of missed chances floating around. Damaged sheets of paper, imprinted with goal and assist statistics imprinted on them, are often seen flying around the environs.
Chelsea is home to the ‘striker’s graveyard’, a place where prolific strikers lose their touch in front of goal and watch their careers perish — and Erling Haaland may be mulling over whether he wants to become the next victim to the curse.
Roman Abramovich is pursuing the chase once again for the prolific star striker that has eluded him in his 18 years as Chelsea owner, with the Russian billionaire reportedly allowing £150million to spent on the 20-year-old sensation, report TeamTalk.
Whether such a figure could tempt Borussia Dortmund into selling is a pertinent question at this moment in time, with Chelsea also exploring whether to include players such as Callum Hudson-Odoi or Tammy Abraham in the deal. It represents a significant investment to end the “curse” that has been placed upon Chelsea’s strikers over the years.
Several have emerged through the gates at Stamford Bridge in their search for greatness such as: Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku, Loic Remy, Demba Ba, Radamel Falcao, Michy Batshuayi, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain, with a total outlay of around £240million.
Yet only Didier Drogba and Diego Costa can truly claim to have found their stride in west London, while Nicolas Anelka did win the Golden Boot before his acrimonious exit in 2012.
The rest may well reflect on their time at Chelsea as one of the darkest periods of their career.
Torres arrived for £50m from Liverpool as one of Europe’s most feared assassins in front of goal. But only 20 goals in 110 appearances followed and he was released on a free transfer four years later. Batshuayi, meanwhile, cost £33m to sign from Marseille five years ago, yet his last Premier League start for the club came in February 2020.
Even their most recent attacking acquisition, the £47.5m signing of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, is showing signs of being burdened by the Blues’ failure to squeeze goals out of their strikers.
That their defensive midfielder Jorginho finished last season having scored seven times from the penalty spot points to a worrying trend.
Werner managed just six goals in 35 Premier League appearance in his debut campaign, while Tammy Abraham equalled Werner’s total despite playing 140 minutes of football since January.
Their profligacy and lack of a striker capable of scoring 20 goals a season is what prevents Chelsea from being rated in the same bracket as Liverpool and Manchester City, even considering the fact they became Champions League winners for the second time in May.
Thomas Tuchel has one of the finest analytical minds in football management and his assessment that Chelsea require a new striker is hardly surprising.
“We need more goals and we rely on anybody and we want to trust anybody who is capable of scoring,” he said in April.
“But you just need to read the numbers, our top scorers have six goals. This is clearly not enough for the demands, the expectations and the targets Chelsea football club has and what we demand.
“I say this without any anger and without being rude to any of the offensive guys, I think they’re very well aware of it.”
There are no prizes for guessing why Tuchel and Chelsea have turned to Haaland to help them escape their goal troubles.
The Norwegian has netted 57 goals in 59 appearances since joining Dortmund in January 2020, having been courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs after emerging as a star in the making at Red Bull Salzburg.
At 6’4, he is a towering forward that strikes fear into the opposition with his aerial presence but his sheer pace gives him a physical advantage over defenders too.
His conversion rate of 42 per cent shows just how deadly in front of goal he can be and after netting 20 goals in his first 16 games, Haaland continued that vein of form with 41 goals in all competitions in 2020-21.
Had it not been for the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, clubs other than Chelsea would surely be making their own approaches. Manchester City, Manchester United and Real Madrid all thought to have held talks with his agent, Mino Raiola, in the past.
The conundrum that Dortmund face is that, having already sold Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, losing another star such as Haaland could seriously impact their squad ahead of the new season.
But the striker has a £66m release clause written in his contract that becomes active next season, meaning Dortmund could potentially lose out on a huge sum by rejecting bids for Haaland this summer.
There does not appear to be such a desire to leave from Haaland himself, which may force Chelsea to look elsewhere.
The Norwegian recently hinted he will stay for another season after revealing he is looking forward to reuniting with his Marco Rose, who took over this summer.
“I talked a little bit with him [Rose],” he said. “I know him from before because I had six months with him in Salzburg.
“He’s a nice guy and I look forward to working with him.”
Chelsea will not be willing to wait for the entire summer to find out if they can sign Haaland, with Robert Lewandowski, Sasa Kalajdzic and re-signing Lukaku three possible options.
But they might be best to avoid it, especially from Haaland’s point of view. At 20, he has his whole career ahead of him and with his goalscoring exploits, he can take his pick for his next club.
The lure of playing alongside talents such as Kai Havertz and Mason Mount for the next five years may prove tempting. But Werner may have a word for the wise for what happens when a striker heads to the blue side of London.
If he does make what would be a British transfer record move, Haaland may see the proverbial headstone lying in waiting for him.
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