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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at VELTINS Arena, Gelsenkirschen

Joško Gvardiol: Hummels and Chiellini rolled into one as the Chelsea target shines again vs Schalke


By Alessandro Schiavone in Gelsenkirschen


Capital Football attended the Bundesliga game between RB Leipzig and Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirschen and analysed the performance of the rising Josko Gvardiol who has been linked with a move to Chelsea for some time.


The Bundesliga has long been viewed as a feeder league for Bayern Munich and the Premier League. And Josko Gvardiol could be the next superstar on the move to England after Lukasz Podolski a decade ago, Kai Havertz in 2020 and Georginio Rutter more recently. Gvardiol, who was THE breakout star at the last FIFA World Cup with Croatia. is seen by many as the perfect replacement for Thiago Silva at the heart of Chelsea’s defence in the long run. And even if the Brazilian is expected to pen a new one-year deal which takes him into his 40s he can’t be the club’s future for obvious reasons. Former Seagulls boss Graham Potter has a proud record of getting the best out of young players such as Cucurella and Caicedo at the AMEX. And under his watch, Gvardiol and Benoit Badiashile could turn Chelsea’s defence into a watershed fortress. More, he could mould them into the new John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, arguably Chelsea's greatest pairing in modern times. Badiashile has already shown the size of his talent, having helped Chelsea to two clean sheets in two outings. Gvardiol, who has ditched his mask, has shot to global attention with his strong performances in Qatar. It looks like a match made in heaven.


A rock of Leipzig’s defence since 2020, Gvardiol may not have covered himself in glory when Schalke 04’s Japanese winger Soichiro Kozuki left him trailing before surging goalwards to score. But apart from a rare mistake, which happened with his side already 4-0 up and three points in the bag, he showed once again that he possesses a rare blend of grit and grace as his masterful improvisations, tough defending and aggressiveness gave Schalke’s new signing Michael Frey and company no real chance of scoring. What strikes the most about the 21-year-old is the fact that he never looks challenged, he’s alert to everything and whether it’s his ability to break up attacks, anticipate where an aerial ball is going or somehow flick the ball away from the nose of a striker at the last moment with his head or foot, he always looks in total control. He’s charismatic and albeit Willy Orban is the club’s captain, he is the real leader and boss. Impressively, he possesses both Chiellini’s fearlessness, ability to defend one-on-one and in the zone and Mats Hummels’ intelligence and positional sense. He barely feels the pressure of the big occasion too and plays every game as if he were to kick a ball about in the park with his former Dinamo Zagreb teammates who didn’t make it. Croatia have produced a number of world-class players in its history such as Zvonimir Boban, Davor Suker, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic but Gvardiols is their greatest defender in the making, having more quality than its successors Slaven Bilic, Domagoj Vida and Dejan Lovren.


Yesterday at the VELTINS Arena, Gvardiol gave an early indicator of the tough afternoon the home side would face when a vital sliding intervention took the ball away from Soichiro in a dangerous position with the games a few minutes old.


There’s a reason why he’s one of the most spoken of centre-backs in world football and the Bundesliga’s top defender ahead of Matthijs De Ligt. If Bayern could, they would surely swap the pair in a heartbeat. Gvardiol's stock has kept rising after being the revelation at the last World Cup alongside Argentina’s Enzo Fernandez and Holland’s Cody Gakpo. His tough and no-nonsense defending paved the way for Croatia to knock out Japan and Brazil and finish third after victory over Morocco in the pointless game for the bronze medal. All things considered, It would be surprising if he’s still at RB Leipzig beyond this summer. And after signing his teammate Christophe Nkunku, who will join the Blues this summer, the club led by Todd Boehly would be foolish not to get their hands on Gvardiol too. And with his top-level career gaining momentum the player, who supports Liverpool, would certainly not turn the Blues down.



MATCH FACTS When former AC Milan flop Andre Silva’s missile from outside the area gave Leipzig the lead after only 7 minutes it was a matter of how many. And the result was never in doubt from the moment ex-Monaco right-back Hendrichs drove his shot into the far bottom corner to make it 2-0. Silva was at the double after tapping home a rebound after Dani Olmo saw his shot saved by Schowlow before former Chelsea striker Werner made it 4-0 with a brilliant one-time finish. Despite Kozuki pulling one back, Olmo added his name to the scoresheet with a brilliantly chipped finish before Youssouf Poulsen bent in a beauty to add further salt into Schalke’s fragile wounds. Manchester City’s next Champions League opponents produced a fantastic showing which had more to do with their quality, team spirit and ability to attack and defend in numbers rather than Schalke’s own weaknesses.


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