Brazilian forward Richarlison has been in fine form for Watford this season, helping the Hornets defy expectations under new manager Marco Silva.
The 20-year-old attacker signed for the Vicarage Road club in the summer for a reported £11.2million, but Watford weren’t the only club interested in the former Fluminense man.
Among the long list of Europe’s elite clubs monitoring Richarlison’s progress in Brazil were Chelsea.
Our friends at Football Whispers ask whether the Premier League champions might regret not landing the gifted youngster before Watford.
Alvaro Morata has been a revelation for Chelsea this season, scoring six goals and registering two assists from seven league outings to date.
But the Spanish international marksman has been out of action with a hamstring injury recently, and the Blues attack hasn’t quite clicked in the same way in his absence.
The former Real Madrid man, who was a Manchester United transfer target before moving to Stamford Bridge, returned to action last night in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Roma in the Champions League.
But Antonio Conte’s men slipped to an embarrassing defeat to bottom-placed Crystal Palace at the weekend without Morata.
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Michy Batshuayi has been leading the line in his place, but Conte doesn’t seem to fully trust the Belgian poacher to spearhead the attack, and withdrew the former Marseille man before the hour mark against the Eagles – hardly a vote of confidence for the player to be removed with his team 2-1 down and in need of goals.
Meanwhile, in the wide attacking positions in Chelsea’s customary 3-4-3 shape, Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian have combined for a miserly total of just one league goal and two assists.
By contrast, Richarlison has starred on the left flank for Watford in their rise to fourth place in the Premier League, scoring three times and registering one assist in seven appearances for his new club.
The Blues were thought to be at the front of the queue to sign the Brazilian youngster at one point over the summer, only to be pipped to the post by Watford, who secured his services for what now looks like a bargain price of £11.2million.
Had Chelsea landed the Brazil Under-20 star, Conte may have found more success in providing support and cover for Morata in attack.
Starting, as he does, from the left wing, Richarlison would have been unlikely to unseat Hazard once the brilliant Belgian returned from a broken ankle, but he could have provided a strong back-up option to the former Lille man, offering similar speed, dribbling ability and goal threat.
Richarlison is also very versatile, and could quite easily slot in on the other side of Conte’s attacking trident, replacing either Pedro or Willian.
Comfortable with both feet and dynamic in possession, the 20-year-old matches Willian’s ability to attack his marker and provide ammunition for the central striker, while also offering a similar goal threat to Pedro.
What’s more, Richarlison has experience of playing as a central striker from his time in Brazil.
With his height, aerial prowess, speed, slick movement, link play and finishing ability, he would have made a more like-for-like stand-in for Morata than Batshuayi, while also being able to play alongside the Spaniard should Conte persist with the 3-5-2 shape he has utilised of late.
With his versatility and quality, and considering he was available for such a relatively low price in a summer when transfer fees went stratospheric, Chelsea might come to regret not signing Richarlison before Watford snapped him up.
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