Who will be Chelsea's new midfield destroyer? Blues' big transfer decision between Fernandez, Rice & Caicedo

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Graham Potter's midfield overhaul will be centred around one or two big-name signings, but who is the ideal candidate to transform the team?

Chelsea have stayed true to their Kings Road roots with their thriftless January transfer spree, but while their luxury attacking acquisitions have dominated the headlines, a new midfield enforcer is top of their shopping list.

It's no secret that it is an area of the pitch that has needed a revamp for some time, with current incumbents Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek regularly struggling for either form, fitness or both.

Among the plethora of options in the shop window, three have stood out in particular - although the Blues' expensive taste means none are included in the January sales.

Chelsea seem to have honed the options down to Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice and, such are the funds at the disposal of their new owners, it may not even be a case of either/or.

None will come cheap, but which of the club's main midfield targets is best placed to step into Graham Potter's side?

  1. Declan Rice

    Declan Rice

    There was a time when a move to Chelsea appeared inevitable for Declan Rice, but if the Blues now want to bring back a player who they infamously shunned at academy level, they will need to wrangle his gaze away from table-topping Arsenal.

    Labelling Rice a defensive midfielder would be doing him a disservice; since breaking into the West Ham first team, he has adapted and developed his game to become an almost-complete box-to-box Premier League midfielder. Although he isn't a regular scorer, Rice's goal and assist numbers belie his attacking influence at West Ham, where he creates roughly one chance per game in the Premier League.

    The 24-year-old strangely doesn't feel like the most glamorous signing, perhaps as a result of his Englishness and the unglamourous work he often carries out for the Hammers, and the extent to which Rice would be transformative for Chelsea's midfield is debatable - especially given his club's plight this season.

    But as a proven performer in England's top flight he represents a safe bet, and remarkably he would cost similar to - if not less than - the other names on this list at £80 million ($98.5m).

  2. Enzo Fernandez

    Enzo Fernandez

    The glamour signing.

    History dictates that it is rarely a good idea to splurge big money on the breakout star of a major tournament when the dust has barely settled on the event, but Chelsea REALLY want Fernandez and could be willing to meet his £106 million ($130m) release clause to get him.

    In truth, it's difficult not to get swept up in the hype. Despite being just 22, the boy can do it all.

    Fernandez averages more than 100 attempted passes per game in the Primeira Liga, doesn't shirk a challenge, regularly creates opportunities for his team-mates (seven assists so far this season) and is a goal threat himself - as he demonstrated with his stepover and sublime curling finish against Mexico at the World Cup.

    Although there is a risk attached - as is always the case with a big-money signing, especially from a so-called lesser league - when you consider who could truly be transformative, Fernandez ticks the box.

    Chelsea lack midfielders who make enough of an impact at both ends of the pitch, and Fernandez has the potential to change that with immediate effect.

  3. Moises Caicedo
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    Moises Caicedo

    Links to Moises Caicedo were inevitable once Graham Potter was named Chelsea manager back in September.

    Another monumental success story for Brighton's scouting department, Caicedo has been a revelation since breaking into the first team midway through last season.

    Like Rice, stats certainly don't tell the whole tale of the 21-year-old's playing style; a defensive midfield destroyer in the truest sense who lives for crunching sliding tackles, the Ecuador international is also crucial in launching attacks from deep and progressing the play. Don't believe us? Have a look at his pinpoint, sweeping switch of play against Everton.

    Chelsea certainly lack a player with his attributes when Kante is out injured - which is becoming increasingly often - and Caicedo could be his successor.

    In normal circumstances, this would seem a shrewd signing regardless, but his eye-wateringly inflated £75 million ($93m) valuation is justifiably a deterrent, even for the free-spending Blues. When options like Rice and Fernandez are available for a similar fee, this doesn't seem like a cheap alternative.

  4. Who would best compliment Jude Bellingham?

    Who would best compliment Jude Bellingham?

    Away from Chelsea's search for a new anchor, they are also in the market for a more advanced central operator in an overhaul of their midfield.

    Alongside basically every other elite club in Europe, Jude Bellingham will be the man who tops their list of targets in the summer. They face a hell of a battle to sign him, but their spending so far under Todd Boehly's stewardship suggests they will be up for the fight.

    As such, the club's new transfer strategists - technical director Christopher Vivell and director of global talent and transfers Paul Winstanley - will be searching for players they feel will best compliment Bellingham's coveted skillset.

    This is perhaps where Rice stands out as the best option. Bellingham excelled alongside the West Ham talisman at the World Cup in a well-balanced midfield three including Jordan Henderson, marauding forward as his two colleagues did more of the dirty work. That kind of setup would suit Chelsea nicely with Rice slotting in alongside Kovacic or Kante, with Bellingham ahead of them.

    By the same token, Caicedo could fill a role which is similar to the one he plays for Brighton, although it would inevitably take more time for him to develop a rapport with the England international.

    Fernandez, on the other hand, is perhaps too similar in profile to Bellingham for them to supplement each other. Rather than just sit, the Argentine has shown in his fledgling career that he is not content to watch attacks from afar - he wants to advance and make attacking contributions too. Indeed, his league goal, assist and chance creation stats are not dissimilar to Bellingham's so far in 2022-23.

    By signing Fernandez, Chelsea could negate the need to even pursue Bellingham and save themselves time and some serious cash.