Wilson: Oscar would continue Chelsea evolution

ESPNSTAR.com columnist and 2012 FSF Football Writer of the Year Jonathan Wilson takes a look at Chelsea's latest transfer target from Brazil - Internacional's Oscar.

Football News: Oscar Brazil Javier Mascherano Arge

Nine minutes of extra-time remained in the final of last year's Under-20 World Cup. Portugal, scrapping and fighting against a far superior Brazilian team, were clinging on at 2-2, defending deeper and deeper as tiredness overwhelmed them. Then Oscar, the Brazil midfielder, picked up the ball on the right. A jink of the shoulder created a fraction of space and he clipped the ball over Mika, the Portugal goalkeeper, and inside the far post. It was his third goal of the game and proved to be the winner. But the question everybody was asking was, did he mean it?

Only he can know for sure - and even then some things are so instinctive as to pre-exist cognition - but as he manufactured the space to deliver the ball to the middle, something about the situation caused the thought to spring into my mind that there was a chance to loop an effort over Mika. Whether it was his body-shape or the distribution of players I don't know, but it was enough, along with the lack of spin or curl on the shot to make me think Oscar meant it and that he had won the game with a moment of outrageous skill rather than outrageous luck.

It wasn't just the hat-trick - oddly his only goals at for the U-20s - that made Oscar stand out in the finals. He had been my vote for player of the tournament even before the final because of the range and intelligence of his passing and movement - and this from a player moved from his usual number 10 role to play as a narrow left-sided midfielder. There was a strength and an uprightness to his play, a willingness to use his shoulder in the challenge despite his apparent frailty, a capacity to keep his head up, scanning his options like a footballing meerkat, that drew comparisons with Kaka.

It is that ability and versatility, the sense that he has the physicality to prosper even against more rugged defending than he meets in Brazil, that have attracted Chelsea who are thought to have agreed in principle a deal of around £20million to sign the 20-year-old from Internacional.

The move, if it comes off, will also bring to an end one of the most farcical transfer disputes of recent times, an episode that brings shame to the whole of Brazilian football. He was born in Americana in the state of Sao Paulo and, at the age of 13, he moved to Sao Paulo, the club at which the original Kaka had made his name. He made his breakthrough into the first team in 2008, helping the club complete their third domestic title in a row.

He played just 11 times for Sao Paulo, though, before walking out on them after claiming they were withholding his wages. The club made him return and he seemed trapped until he took the unprecedented step of suing them. The Brazilian federation then allowed him to move south to Porto Alegre, where he joined Internacional. Sao Paulo launched legal action of their own and, as Oscar scored 13 goals and registered 10 assists in the Brasileiro last season, it wasn't even clear who he belonged to. In March, a court ruled that Oscar had to return to Sao Paulo and honour his original contract and the affair was only settled when Internacional agreed to pay £3.5million to trigger a release clause in that contract. It's a deal that looks to have paid off almost immediately.

For Chelsea, Oscar would be yet another creative attacking midfield presence, the third to arrive this summer after Eden Hazard and Marko Marin. Kevin De Bruyne is also available, having been signed in January and been loaned back to Racing Genk until the end of last season. Andre Villas-Boas may have gone but the transition he was supposed to be overseeing is carrying on regardless. It's safe to assume that the days of sitting deep and belting it long to Didier Drogba are long over - and not just because Drogba has left the club for Shanghai Shenhua. This is a team now that appears committed to quick passing triangles through midfield.

It seems probable Chelsea are moving from the 4-3-3 they have played since shortly after Jose Mourinho's arrival in 2004 to a 4-2-3-1 - a process begun last season. That means Frank Lampard having to accept his role is to sit deep in midfield as one of the two holders, something he did exceptionally well in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona. With Michael Essien, Raul Meireles, Ramires and Oriol Romeu there is plenty of cover in that area, although Ramires could be used as a tracking winger when Chelsea come up against teams with an attacking full-back. There is also talk of signing Luka Modric, who has nearly joined Chelsea twice in the past; he could play either as a deep-lying playmaker or further forward.

It's the line of three that is particularly intriguing, though. Marin and De Bruyne offer genuine width while Hazard and Juan Mata - and perhaps Oscar - are intelligent creators. Florent Malouda seems the odd-man-out, his muscular style not obviously fitting any role in the team taking shape. There must also be concerns at centre-forward.

Although Daniel Sturridge may get his long-awaited chance through the middle, Fernando Torres is the only senior striker on the books with the promise of Romelu Lukaku in reserve.

Torres, after a couple of seasons of playing in direct sides, could thrive on a diet rich in slipped through-passes, but given his patchy form and his poor injury record it would be a major surprise if Chelsea didn't also add a forward before the close of the transfer window. Hulk, who could also have operated on the right of the creative three, has denied reports that he is close to a move to Stamford Bridge, and Falcao was linked with Chelsea earlier this week.

Oscar may not be as well known - in Europe at least - as many of Chelsea's other new arrivals. He is young and there will be a process of adaptation. But in terms of potential, he may be the most exciting of the lot.



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