After it became clear that Chelsea had missed out on another top transfer target in the form of ex-Blues cast-off Romelu Lukaku, the odds on Antonio Conte to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post shortened significantly. Like Mourinho before him, the Italian is known to be frustrated by the lack of new arrivals so far this summer, with a new striker high on his agenda given Diego Costa’s prospected return to Atletico.
While missing out on the Belgian is certainly a blow, the options didn’t start and end with the new Manchester United man, with the Blues linked with three more high-profile frontmen on the continent. The players in question are Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata, who was also close to a move to Old Trafford before the Red Devils opted for Lukaku, another target of the Manchester club in Andrea Belotti and Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
As was the case with the former Everton hitman, all three would command a fee in excess with £60m, but which would represent the best value for such a hefty fee, and are any a better fit than Lukaku would have been?
As far as the most important statistic is concerned, it was Aubameyang that came out on top from the quartet in terms of league goals scored last season, with a Bundesliga high of 31. Then comes Torino’s Belotti (26) – who enjoyed a campaign of rapid development compared to his counterparts here – with the Italian one ahead of Lukaku (25), and Morata back on 15.
There is, of course, far more to the story than goals alone however, and indeed a number of factors to consider when attempting to decipher the most clinical of the strikers under the microscope. Morata, after all, was forced to play a limited role at the Bernabeu, playing second fiddle for much of the campaign to Karim Benzema to the bewilderment of many given his prolificacy.
The Spaniard started just 14 of 26 appearances in La Liga last season, with a minutes per goal ratio superior to any of his competitors here. The 24-year-old found the net every 88.7 minutes on average, which was one minute fewer than the free-scoring Aubameyang, twenty fewer than Belotti and over thirty minutes more frequently than bottom of the pile Lukaku (every 130.7 minutes).
It’s the Madrid man that perhaps unsurprisingly comes out on top in terms of conversion rate too, again edging out Aubameyang, scoring with 27.3% of his attempts to the Dortmund forward’s 26.7%. Lukaku (22.7%) leapfrogs Belotti (20%), with the pair again down on Morata and Aubameyang in terms of shot accuracy, with the latter turning the tables to narrowly outperform the former (56% to 54.5%).
As far as the most clinical finishers are concerned then, there can be little doubt that the Real Madrid and Dortmund goal -getters have the edge, which should inspire confidence in Chelsea fans that the right man might still be out there. The two perhaps fall into a different category of striker though, and while classing both as poachers would be a disservice, both Lukaku and Belotti arguably offer more in general play.
It’s something that Conte will no doubt take into consideration, with Diego Costa offering more than just the goals that helped fire the Blues to the title last season. It’s here that Belotti will come into his compatriot’s thinking, with the 23-year-old – the youngest of the four – registering the most assists last season, with 7, from the most key passes per game (1.6). Lukaku is his closest rival in both respects, with 6 assists from 1.3 key passes per game, while Aubameyang managed just two assists, along with the fact that all 31 of his goals came from inside the box to reaffirm the notion that he is more inclined to do his work inside 18-yards.
While Lukaku is unsurprisingly top in terms of aerial duels won per game, it’s again Belotti that uses his head to best effect in the box. A tally of 10 headed goals was, in fact, the most across Europe’s top 5 leagues, and while the Belgium, Gabon and Spain internationals all managed six, Morata’s figure is certainly the most impressive of the three given his reduced playing time.
Indeed, the fact that his stats stack up so closely to the others from far fewer minutes suggest that it’s the Real Madrid forward that, given the chance to be a team’s undisputed first choice, could be the most astute signing. Manchester United clearly didn’t feel as though that was the case, but Chelsea shouldn’t let that deter them from making the 24-year-old their number one priority. Morata, after all, may feel he now has a point to prove to a club that seemingly thought there was a better option available. The statistics suggest there aren’t…