Antonio Conte spent the latter half of the summer transfer window furiously trying to identify a top centre-back to add to Chelsea’s ranks.
His eventual acquisition of David Luiz, a former Stamford Bridge favourite, was a sensational bolt from the blue that got the whole country talking as the window shut.
However, It could well be that his other piece of business, the purchase of Marcos Alonso that proves the more significant addition.
— Marcos Alonso (@marcosalonso03) August 31, 2016
The full-back arrived for around £24 million from Italian side Fiorentina. While few could claim that Alonso is close to being a world-class defender, or a household name, there is plenty about the deal to suggest that his will be a great boost to Conte’s squad.
For starters the player is no stranger to the British game. Alonso spent three years at Bolton Wanderers, the first two of which were in the Premier League. In his third season he became one of the key players at the club under Dougie Freedman – albeit in the Championship.
His performances were enough to impress Fiorentina. He also made 20 appearances for Sunderland, having joined on loan in January of 2014, and helped the club retain it’s top-flight status under Gus Poyet.
While he has hardly set the Premier League on fire to date, the Spaniard comes in with an advantage over other big-money new recruits this window – some solid experience in the top flight of English football.
The Madrid-born man arrives in West London with great experience for his 25 years.
Squad numbers confirmed! https://t.co/w4T994ZyhG
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 1, 2016
Schooled at one of the biggest clubs of the world, Real Madrid, the defender has already enjoyed substantial game time in two of Europe’s top leagues before hitting his prime years.
His contribution in Serie A last season was a significant factor in La Viola finishing fifth and securing Europa League football.
What Alonso gives his new manager though, more than anything else, is flexibility.
Many are speculating that Conte could switch to playing three at the back following the arrival of David Luiz and indeed the Italian coach has enjoyed success with that formation in his previous posts.
That would mean Alonso occupying a left-sided wing-back role.
Alternatively he could come into the team at on the left hand side of the existing back four, allowing countryman Cesar Azpilicueta to switch over to the right and subsequently resting Branislav Ivanovic, or moving him into centre back.
However, it may well be that Alonso will need to be patient and content with deputising for either full-back for the time being, as Chelsea’s strong start could see the existing back four keep their places when the blues return to action at Swansea on September 11.
Either way, Alonso helps give Conte the alternatives at the back he had been seeking all summer.