The £68m striker who can be Chelsea's ideal Victor Osimhen alternative

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Reports suggest that Chelsea are cooling their interest in Victor Osimhen - so where should they turn next?

Scarcely five minutes have passed since Enzo Maresca was unveiled as the new Chelsea manager – but a report has already circulated suggesting that he has begun the process of butting heads with the board over transfer policy. Specifically, the report, which originated in Italy, claims that Maresca doesn’t want his new team to sign long-standing £110m target Victor Osimhen.

At first glance, that would seem a little surprising. Osimhen has remained impressive despite the fact that Napoli endured a very poor season – their title defence proved to be the worst in Italian top-flight history by points total – and neither of Chelsea’s current central strikers were able to nail down the starting role last season, with Nicolas Jackson enduring substantial swings in form and Christopher Nkunku spending far too much time on the treatment table.

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The explanation offered is that Maresca wants a more deep-lying forward, someone who can drop deep and link play up, acting as creator as well as destroyer. He was happy enough playing with an off-the-shoulder number nine at Leicester City in the form of Jamie Vardy, but perhaps now that he’s managing a club with more extensive resources, he feels able to remodel the team to his own specifications in a way he couldn’t at the King Power. But if they do look elsewhere, or if the board simply decides that Osimhen is too expensive, where should they turn next?

A number of separate reports also suggest Chelsea have joined the race for RB Leipzig striker Benjamin Šeško, who is reported to be the leading transfer target for Arsenal this summer and has a release clause believed to stand at €65m (£55.3m), which may be a lot but is roughly half of what would be necessary to get Osimhen on board. If true, that too gives a lie to the alleged logic behind the supposed lack of interest in the Nigerian – the two players have very similar playing profiles and their movement, positioning and use of pace are near enough identical, while Šeško is no more a deep-lying playmaking forward than Osimhen is.

So there are two essential possibilities here – one is that if Chelsea are moving away from Osimhen, it’s purely because they see in Šeško a striker who can offer the same quality at half the price, and the other is that one of the two rumours is simply untrue. But if Maresca really does want a striker who can drop deep for his new side, there is one other player who might be on the market and who could well make sense for Chelsea – Juventus’ Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović.

The 24-year-old has had an up-and-down time since signing for the Old Lady from Fiorentina and took a while to start justifying the initial hype, but he has just had his best season since arriving in Turin, scoring 16 goals and setting up another four in Serie A. That has led to reports that Juventus, who had been keen to offload the Serb last summer, have had a change of heart and have offered Vlahović a new contract – but those negotiations, if they exist, have yet to come to fruition.

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Vlahović, who was heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge last summer, has two years left on his current contract and as such, Juve will either have to re-sign him or sell him now to avoid losing him at a cut price down the line. Reports last year suggested that they would want around €80m (£68.1m) to sell him, a price point roughly approximate to what they paid in the first place, and that’s probably a good starting point for negotiations this time around as well.

And while Vlahović is very much a natural number nine first and foremost, he does offer some of the qualities that could make him stand out from the likes of Osimhen and Šeško – he’s happier dropping in between midfield and defence than either, creates more chances for his team-mates and is a better passer. He couldn’t be mistaken for a number ten, but he offers the combination of tactical versatility and goalscoring prowess that Maresca may well want if he has opted out of signing Osimhen.

Of course, Vlahović may prefer to stay in Italy and if the way Chelsea – or more specifically Behdad Eghbali, the Clearlake Capital director who has taken charge of decision-making at the club – handled Maurico Pochettino’s tenure is anything to go by, they may decide they want Osimhen anyway and do what they please regardless of the head coach’s preferences. But don’t be shocked if the Serbian’s name appears on the rumour mill again very soon, or if Chelsea try to turn his head with a big raise once more. Reading between the lines of the reports circulating around Europe, he could make a lot of sense for the club.

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