Last summer, Chelsea paid £30m to activate the release clause in Nicolas Jackson’s Villarreal contract, and committed him to an eight-year deal. While the 22-year-old still has plenty of time to improve, it’s undeniably been a slow start at Stamford Bridge.
He’s scored eight goals in 23 appearances in all competitions so far, and it’s worth noting that three of those came late on against nine-man Spurs in a 4-1 victory in early November. The Senegalese frontman, who’s currently representing his country at AFCON, has been wasteful in front of goal, ranking joint-fourth in the Premier League for big chances missed (12). Only Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin (-4.6) has undershot his xG by a bigger margin than Jackson’s 3.6.
This is a big part of the reason why Chelsea are only eighth in the league for goals scored (35), despite creating the second-highest xG (41.6), and ninth in the table overall. Mauricio Pochettino will hope that a potential deal for Karim Benzema could fix the issue.
Chelsea talks over Benzema
According to TEAMtalk, Chelsea have held discussions over a move for Benzema, who’s currently playing his football at Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia after leaving Real Madrid last year. The Blues have been monitoring his situation in the Gulf with a view to possibly making a move.
London rivals Arsenal are also “considering a blockbuster loan deal”, provided that Al-Ittihad are willing to sanction one. It remains to be seen whether the Gunners present a formal offer and whether Chelsea decide to submit a rival proposal.
Ballon d’Or winner could give Chelsea clinical touch
Journalist Zach Lowy has dubbed Benzema a “legend”, and it’s impossible to argue with that description. Benzema left European football with a collection of medals that would be the envy of virtually any footballer worldwide, headlined by five Champions Leagues and eight domestic titles (four in Spain with Real and four in France with Lyon).
At the individual level, meanwhile, Benzema is one of only two players not named Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or between 2018 and 2023, alongside former Los Blancos teammate Luka Modric, having landed the prize in 2022 on the back of Real’s league and Champions League double. He put up staggering numbers of 44 goals and 15 assists in 46 games that season, so few could dispute his worthiness for the prize.
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Things have been somewhat tumultuous for Benzema so far in Saudi Arabia after reports of a dressing room spat with Nuno Espirito Santo prior to the Portuguese’s sacking at Al-Ittihad. Despite that, he’s maintained a strong goalscoring record, netting 12 in 20 in all competitions and nine in 15 in the league. Only six players have scored more in the Saudi top flight.
One potential issue, especially for a club that is already in danger of breaking the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules, is Benzema’s reported salary. The Frenchman apparently earns a whopping £1.65m per week in Jeddah, and even if Chelsea could convince Al-Ittihad to split that salary 50/50, it would be an extraordinary outlay. If they are able to make a deal work, though, it’s clear that Benzema could provide the clinical touch Pochettino needs to salvage something from this season.