Chelsea has wasted no time in the transfer window, securing the high-profile signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. Since then, the rumours have only become more customary and Chelsea looks set to have its most impressive window since the beginning of the Roman Abramovich era.
While attacking players galore have been linked with the Blues, including the likes of Said Benrahma and Kai Havertz, it is at the other end where the signings really need to be made. Rumoured defensive additions have included Ben Chilwell, Alex Telles, Declan Rice, Gabriel, and David Alaba, to name a few. However, one signing is edging ever closer — the potential arrival of Ajax left back Nicolas Tagliafico.
The 27-year-old is highly-experienced and has been a key member of the Ajax team that has been so good over the last few seasons. From a distance, he looks a very solid full back, someone who adds stability in that position. But there’s also a lot we don’t know about the player.
What are the real chances of this signing happening? To answer that, plus many more questions regarding the player, I’ve enlisted the help of Dutch football journalist and Ajax expert Daniel Dwarswaard (@DanielDwars) to give us a real insight into the Argentinian full back.
George: Hi Daniel, hope all is well at the current time. Firstly, I want to dive straight in with Tagliafico’s career. How would you describe his Ajax career so far?
Daniel: Well, he came in from Argentina in January 2018, so he’s been there over two years now. He was known as a solid defender but has developed into an attacking defender. He’s surprised himself, he didn’t know he could do it but he’s got the freedom from playing in Ajax, as many do. The trainers and coaches wanted him to play like that and have helped improve him from when he first came. He’s done a great job in the two and a half years. He’s been one on of the top players. They only bought him for four-million pounds or something like that, so it was a really good deal.
George: You had mentioned before the interview, you know him a little bit from your time as a journalist covering Ajax. What can you tell me about his persona?
Daniel: As a person, he is really calm and relaxed but really eager on the pitch. You can see it in the way he plays. For me, he is one of the best signings they’ve made in the last 10 years.
George: He’s had a great two years there for sure but how was the early part of his Ajax career compared to where he is now?
Daniel: His debut was funny to tell. He was playing Feyenoord at home, which is the big match in Holland, and he was given Man of the Match. He showed from day one what he was all about. In the game, he was fairly popular, and everyone was chanting his name. He had a great start and has gone on to become one of the best left backs now in the league.
George: Definitely one of the best left backs in the league, probably the best! What makes him so good then?
Daniel: He has that energy and desire, as well as the ability to tackle extremely well. Also, he can score goals. He was surprised at that because he wasn’t doing so before Ajax. He has scored maybe seven this season, and in the CL as well. Yeah, like I said, he developed himself as an attacking left back. Before he came, he wasn’t. He adopted the Ajax game very well.
George: Our next left back signing must be, not only a top player, but also consistent. Would you describe him as consistent?
Daniel: Yeah, he is very consistent. I think he is the most consistent player in Ajax in the last two years. He’s always scoring a 7/10 per match, if not higher.
George: That’s good to hear as I’ve had to endure Marcos Alonso and Emerson, who have been very inconsistent over the last two years! What would you say are his weaknesses, if any?
Daniel: He is a typical Argentinian player who plays with a lot of passion, so he makes a lot of fouls trying to press and be aggressive and he often gets a yellow card but that’s his only weakness perhaps. His aggression is why he defends so well, so it is also a strength.
George: Looking at the bigger picture, how highly do you rate him in terms of the best left backs in Europe?
Daniel: I think in the top five and top 10. Alphonso Davies, Andy Robertson, and Ferland Mendy are all younger and perhaps a level above Tagliafico but he definitely falls just below those mentioned.
George: All Chelsea fans want to know one thing and it is a very simple question — can he defend?
Daniel: Yeah he can, of course! You see attacking defenders who can’t defend very well but he has a good balance of both. He is strong in the tackle, aggressive in a good way, so it’s not a problem at all. He does have to prove it on another level but I have confidence that he will do it.
George: The Premier League is so special for so many reasons but especially for its style of football. How will the Premier League suit him?
Daniel: I think the English Premier League will suit him. The intensity, the pace of the games, he will be used to it playing at that speed having played with Ajax for two years.
George: Has he learned the Ajax way of ‘Total Football’ in his time there and has that helped to improve his technical side of his game?
Daniel: Yeah, like I said, he developed himself as an attacking left back. Before he came, he wasn’t. But he has adopted the Ajax way extremely well and is very well rounded.
George: If he does move here, it will be quite a transition from South America to Holland and then England. How is his English? And how well would he cope with having to adapt to another country?
Daniel: His English is quite good for a South American player. I did a few interviews with him, just a few chats next to the training pitch. The bigger interviews I did in Spanish but with English, he’s eager to learn it. He’s done it the last two years and he speaks pretty well. Some players don’t try from that part of the world so that shows he does care.
George: How would you describe his mentality?
Daniel: It shows something about his mentality that he wants to be a success. He does everything to improve himself off the pitch and on.
George: We keep talking about it as if it’s a done deal. Is the move in the cards and do you think it’ll be a good fit for both parties?
Daniel: For sure, they are willing to sell him this summer. Other players rumoured to leave are Andre Onana and Donny Van De Beek. But it seems the club are willing to sell him. As far as being a good match, yeah, I think it’ll be a good match, if it happens. Plus, he is with his buddy Ziyech, which will help.
George: Yeah that should help him settle in if he does come. Really enjoyed getting an insight into the player and man he is. Thanks again Daniel!
(2:02-2:26 shows Hakim Ziyech assisting Tagliafico twice!)
It was certainly interesting to get an insight into how Tagliafico has performed outside of the Champions League and how he’s regarded by people who’ve watched him for over two years. In my personal opinion, I believe he falls into the mould of an Andy Robertson type left back. Physically, they are built similarly, and both are aggressive and quick. We can only hope he has a similar impact to the one Robertson has had for Liverpool.
We know Tagliafico has the experience and can perform at the top level. That should put him in good stead if he finds himself in the Blue of Chelsea come next season. Daniel has helped to facilitate my preconceived ideas about Tagliafico and also reassure me that the Argentinian is indeed the right man to fill the left back role at Chelsea for the next few seasons to come.
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