FLORENCE, ITALY - APRIL 17: Riccardo Montolivo of ACF Fiorentina in action during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and Juventus FC at Stadio Artemio Franchi on April 17, 2011 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
NB: Before we get started, let me make one thing perfectly clear. This is not a transfer rumour. I do not have people in the know telling me that I should be paying attention to Riccardo Montolivo, or that Chelsea are in any way interested/connected with him. If anyone tries to use this as some sort of source for a rumour of their own, I reserve the right to hunt them down and maim them with a screwdriver. This is not a transfer rumour.
With that out of the way... let's get started. Chelsea are in need of midfield help. That much is obvious. The team had trouble in the centre last year. Frank Lampard is showing alarming signs of decline. Michael Essien is out for more than half of the season. Josh McEachran is too young to be trusted with a full-time job. Everyone knows about the Blues' very public pursuit of Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Luka Modric, and we've been linked to Palermo trequartista Javier Pastore for absolutely ages too.
That's all well and good. Chelsea should be associated with the big names, after all. But there are other sensible options out there, and I'm more than a little surprised we're not being linked to them. Bayer Leverkusen's Arturo Vidal, whom Steve profiled earlier today, is one that the papers ought to be paying more attention to (they've finally started picking up on that this week, thank goodness).
But in light of the difficulty regarding the Modric situation - not to mention the Croatian's expected price - Vidal isn'tthe most surprising omission from the world of written-about Chelsea targets. That honour falls to none other than now-ex Fiorentina skipper Riccardo Montolivo.
Why? Montolivo is a playmaking midfielder in his mid-20s who tends to sit deep, in the mould of Andrea Pirlo. He has silly floppy hair. His passing range is brilliant. He probably deserves to be playing regularly in the Champions League. Does that sound familiar at all? It should, because he's Luka Modric in disguise:
Oh, except that he's in the final year of his contract and has already confirmed that he won't be signing an extension. And that his club don't believe that they're going to be particularly competitive anytime soon, and should be more than willing to sell him - they've already stripped him of the captaincy, against the will of the players. No, he doesn't have the Premier League pedigree that Modric possesses, but Fiorentina aren't going to go into a very public pout over any bid, and with his contract situation Montolivo would come much cheaper to Stamford Bridge than Modric would.
I honestly have no idea why Chelsea haven't been associated with this guy if they're in the market for a regista. Yeah, he might be more inclined to stay in Italy. He makes a lot of sense for a team like AC Milan, and I'm sure he'd love to play for them (he really didn't seem comfortable with English in my-all-too-brief encounter with him in London). But honestly, those aren't good enough reasons for there not to be interest in him from our perspective. Why are we supposed to believe that we'll sink £30M into a bid for Luka Modric without even exploring a much cheaper option in Montolivo?
There is literally no scenario I can think of where someone doesn't leak information connecting the two clubs (ok, there are a few, but they mostly involve ebola and asteroid apocalypses, so I'm guessing that they don't count). Fiorentina could do with more big names being talked about in conjunction the player so as to spark a bidding war, while Chelsea have an obvious hole to fill. I'm assuming that Montolivo would be flattered by any interest from such a high-profile team as well. So... am I missing something, or is everyone else?