Chelsea are planning to bring in or sign another striker in January with new manager Rafael Benitez of the view that they simply cannot place the burden on Fernando Torres to score their goals and play every game to the end of the season.
The club have not ruled out bringing Romelu Lukaku from his loan spell at West Bromwich Albion, where he has scored five Premier League goals this season, one more than Torres, but there is a feeling that the Belgium international’s development would be best served by seeing out his season there.
Lukaku, 19, has made significant steps at West Brom but the club believe that they may need a more experienced player to see them through the final five months. Much will also depend on whether they beat the odds and get through to the Champions League knockout stages next week.
While Torres’s goalscoring form has been poor – he has just four league goals in 14 games – Benitez is not prepared to play him in every game, especially given the fixture pressure on the club. Providing they win their semi-final in the Club World Cup and their third round FA Cup tie, Chelsea will play 17 games in the next two months, starting with the trip to West Ham United on Saturday.
The Colombia international Radamel Falcao is the primary long-term target but he would take a monumental investment to sign in January with a €60m release clause in his Atletico Madrid contract. .
Benitez and Chelsea may look at a more short-term option than Falcao, especially if they are only competing in the Europa League come January. The club have looked at Wilfried Bony, 23, the Ivorian who plays for Vitesse Arnhem, a club with whom they have a close relationship. Three Chelsea players – Patrick Van Aanholt, Gaël Kakuta and Tomas Kalas – are currently on loan at the club. Bony has scored 15 goals already for Vitesse this season and is the leading goalscorer in the Eredivisie. That he will be playing at the African Nations for most of January means that he is unlikely to be the quick fix required.
They have explored the possibility of bringing Didier Drogba back on loan from Shanghai Shensua but it is fraught with problems. He is playing for the Ivory Coast in the African Nations and the Chinese Super League season clubs begin pre-season training in February.
Nevertheless, the striker has retained close links with senior officials at the club and was back at Stamford Bridge earlier in the month for the games against Shakhtar Donetsk and Liverpool. A move for Drogba was a consideration before the appointment of Benitez but there was friction between the two when the latter was Liverpool manager.
Another option is the Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, who is a free agent at the end of the season. He is expected to go to Juventus in the next transfer window but at the relatively low price of €7m he remains an option for the second half of the season.