Improvisation has been a common theme across the Premier League this summer and no club encapsulates that better than Chelsea. More than once, the Blues have been forced to change tact, with the failure to sign Romelu Lukaku a pivotal moment in their transfer window. Their forced improvisation goes beyond that, though.
First, Antonio Conte had to accept defeat in his efforts to sign Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, with Chelsea unwilling to pay the kind of money demanded by the Serie A giants. Then the move for Alex Sandro stalled, leaving the Blues unlikely to secure another top target. Conte, understandably, expressed his frustration to the club’s board.
Now, Chelsea are putting a contingency plan into action. There are murmurs they could turn to Alvaro Morata to make amends for missing out on Lukaku, with Antonio Rudiger signed this week to satisfy the need for a new centre-back. At fullback, the position Sandro was preparing to fill, Danilo has reportedly been lined up.
Of course, Sandro and Danilo play on different sides of the pitch, with the former a left back and the latter a right back. But Conte requires the same thing regardless of the flank they operate on – he needs someone capable of controlling an entire wing. Sandro fits that bill, becoming one of Juve’s key figures over the two seasons, but is Danilo really of that calibre?
It’s true that Danilo has been used as something of a scapegoat ever since he joined Real Madrid. Whenever there is something to blame for, the notoriously hard to please Madrid press tends to point the finger at the Brazilian. Every team, even a winning one, needs a scapegoat and Danilo is that person for Real Madrid.
And yet he proved adequate enough to fill in for the injured Dani Carvajal as Real Madrid won a league and Champions League double last season. Danilo grew in stature and confidence in the second half of the campaign, becoming a reliable, if unremarkable, performer for Zinedine Zidane.
Danilo would make an adequate signing for Chelsea, filling a position occupied by Victor Moses last season with a right back specialist. The transfer fee would determine the true worth of the deal, but at least Conte could count on a player who knows the role. It would be another option for him to call upon.
What’s more, there’s more to Danilo than initially meets the eye. High-profile blunders early in his career mask his positive contribution to the cause at Real Madrid, with the Brazilian the most prolific interceptor at the club (averaging three per game). He is also one of the best tacklers Zidane has, with only Nacho Fernandez and Carvajal coming close to his statistics last season.
Critics claim that Danilo has so little positional discipline that he every so often finds himself in the right place at the right time through sheer fortune, and there is a valid point to be made in that regard. But if there’s a coach who can mould Danilo into shape, it’s Conte. Look at what he did with Victor Moses.
Real Madrid probably won’t miss Danilo to any great extent, with the Brazilian only used as part of Zidane’s rotational system, but he has shown enough to suggest he would make a reasonable addition for Chelsea given their current state and failure to launch in the transfer market this summer.
That’s not to say that Chelsea can’t do better. They are reigning Premier League champions. The next step they take must be one that turns them into continental champions. Danilo might already be a European champion, but he’s not the player to help them do that.