A "bulldozer" was how Chelsea's new signing, Oriol Romeu, was described in one Spain squad profile on the eve of this month's Under-20 World Cup in Colombia. The Spanish newspaper Diario AS used the English spelling in a sort of homage to the player's summer destination.
“He bites, he fights, he pressurizes and he wins the ball,” it went on, describing a player Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas first looked at signing last season while he was still at Porto.
Just over a year ago Romeu made his Barcelona first team debut in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup but it was to be his only first team start and the prospect of another season in the B-team – Barcelona’s reserve side that plays in Spain’s second division – made Chelsea’s offer impossible to turn down, both for the club who need the 4.3m pounds and the player who would have been earning under 200,000 a season in the second string.
Romeu’s failure to make the final jump to the first team suggest it may be optimistic to think Chelsea have landed their Cesc Fabregas. Guardiola had reservations about Romeu’s ability to compete with Sergi Busquets in the holding role in Barcelona’s midfield last season. He sanctioned the signing of Javier Mascherano on those grounds and Mascherano’s superb campaign and the possible arrival of Fabregas – who Barca will not hesitate to use in the holding role if the need arises – have made his prospects gloomier.
The feeling was that while the defensive side of Romeu’s game was developing perfectly he lacked something going forward. His positioning, discipline, ability to win the ball and give it simple were faultless but he did not dictate play in the way that Busquets does for both club and country.
It may be no indictment that he does not match up to a World Cup winner at 19 and his defensive qualities were used by Barca-B team coach Luis Enrique towards the end of last season when he played him in centre-defence.
Despite Guardiola being happy for him to be sold the club have insured themselves against the possibility that his career will now take-off by insisting not just on a first and second year buy-back clause but also the option of taking him in the third and fourth season of his contract if Chelsea choose to sell and they match any rival bids.
Villas-Boas will feel that a player with seven years of Barcelona schooling behind him and the physical attributes necessary to survive in the Premeir League can be molded into Chelsea’s midfield anchorman for years to come however.
He was keen to start work on that process this pre-season and the possibility of Romeu joining-up with his new team-mates instead of going to Colombia was discussed.
As it is the Taragona-born midfielder joined his compatriots instead, and if the U-20s emulate the senior side’s achievements last summer, and those of the U-19s and U-21s at European level this year then he will not arrive in London until the 21st of August – one day after the U-20 World Cup final.