After reports in Italy suggested that we were now interested in Club Brugge striker Wesley Moraes, the Chronicle have now confirmed that he is a player we are looking at as a possible Salomon Rondon alternative.
As soon as I saw this link, one thing became blindingly obvious – this looks like Mike Ashley’s perfect Salomon Rondon replacement.
In a world where Ashley wants us to bring in players below the age of 26, with big potential, sell on value, relatively low wages and an affordable asking price, Wesley seems to fit the bill – and it seems convenient that we’re being linked with him just as our hopes of securing Rondon on a permanent deal appear to be fading.
Wesley is 22, has been showing real promise in the Belgian League, scoring 17 goals last season (as well as 10 assists) and is someone who will be deemed affordable by the club at £15-20m given his huge sell on potential.
He fits Ashley’s tedious transfer policy perfectly and, on the fact of it, offers the sort of size and stature Benitez will love in a lone striker, however he’s far from proven. And that’s the big issue with this approach.
We’re clearly so reluctant to sign Rondon, with Ashley and co no doubt shuddering at the thought of paying a £16.5m release clause (and big wages) on a player turning 30 later this year, but these are not footballing people.
These are people who forget the fact he’s proven, is pivotal to this team with 12 goals and 7 assists last season, a player with invaluable Premier League experience and someone with a brilliant attitude and several key qualities both on and off the pitch.
Wesley clearly has potential and is a formidable unit, being an intriguing talent and someone who could give Rafa Benitez a lot to work with, but scoring goals in the Belgian League does little to prove his worth at Premier League level.
He could be brilliant. He could go on to score goals for fun, bully Premier League centre-backs, bring success and be sold on for £40m further down the line, but signing him over a proven Salomon Rondon would be a huge risk.
Signing him as Rondon’s understudy would make perfect sense and is no doubt something a club with more ambition would do, giving us a ready-made replacement in a few year’s time when the Venezuelan is getting past is best, but getting an unproven 22-year-old to replace our player of the season is a risk Rafa would surely be unwilling to take?
The last time we signed a promising young striker from Belgium we were relegated the following summer.
Food for thought for Mike Ashley if he’s considering moves for either Wesley or Salomon Rondon during contract talks with Rafa Benitez.