On Wednesday afternoon before Chelsea’s Carabao Cup victory over Brentford, the news broke from Spain that Barcelona had agreed a £46.7m fee for Manchester City forward Ferran Torres.
Despite Barcelona’s obvious financial troubles, it appears the transfer is close with an announcement for the 21-year-old’s departure expected in the coming days before Torres makes the long-rumoured move in January.
How this call relates to Chelsea specifically is through Hakim Ziyech and how he had been viewed as a potential winter purchase for the La Liga giants. According to Fabrizio Romano, Barca had been exploring the idea of a move for the Moroccan as an alternative should their pursuit of the Man City attacker fall short.
Now one of Ziyech’s potential January buyers have been taken off the table and in a COVID-hit transfer market, you would suspect few others would step forward with an offer.
Borussia Dortmund are another potential suitor that had been linked over recent weeks, but Thomas Tuchel’s own squad crisis over the past week due to a number of positive COVID tests will likely mean the German is even more reticent to allow many bodies to depart next month.
Ziyech was unavailable on Wednesday, limping off at Wolves in the previous game with fears another player is now forced to sit on the sidelines during an increasingly challenging festive period.
Another injury setback for Ziyech would only further add more obstacles to him ever discovering the form so many hoped he could achieve after his 2020 signing from Ajax.
What Pep Guardiola’s decision to sell Torres does do is likely mean Ziyech’s only option is to remain at Stamford Bridge until the summer.
The 28-year-old has reportedly been irritated by a lack of opportunities under Tuchel, though when you factor in his four starts in the last six Premier League games it is hard to make the case those chances have not been given.
A winning goal away at Watford and an assist for Mason Mount at West Ham were two bright moments but too often it feels like Ziyech’s best contributions are less impactful and more aesthetically pleasing.
During a period where Callum Hudson-Odoi, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have all been forced off, few could create a more perfect scenario for Ziyech to nail down a place in Tuchel’s uncertain front three.
Instead, his peripheral displays have only heightened the frustration over a lack of options and his consistently erratic form.
It also becomes damaging to figures like Ziyech that 18-year-old Harvey Vale making his competitive debut for Chelsea away to Brentford impressed, looked composed on the ball and came close to opening the scoring before being substituted after the hour mark.
Ziyech has a chance over the next five months to prove his £33m fee was a bargain and not a wasted experiment by the club.
What gives him a chance of still forging a good career in west London is the lack of clarity over what Tuchel’s strongest attacking trio is, making any of Chelsea’s attacking options a viable option to unlocking that fantasy combination.
Although January may not see Ziyech’s rumoured exit, if things stay the way they are, it would not be a shock to see that departure arise next summer.