Richmond Boakye-Yiadom linked with Chelsea move
Despite signing Álvaro Morata in a club-record £58million deal, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is said to be actively searching for attacking reinforcements.
Indeed, Morata may have arrived, but Conte missed out on Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United before turning to the Spaniard, while Fernando Llorente chose Tottenham Hotspur over the Blues.
It left Conte with Morata and Michy Batshuayi as his main striking options and, while the former has been an instant hit at Stamford Bridge, the Belgian still hasn’t earned Conte’s full trust.
That much was evident from Saturday’s shock 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace.
Now, with Morata injured and Batshuayi still in need of fine-tuning, Conte has reportedly detailed his scouts to keep a close eye on Red Star Belgrade frontman Richmond Boakye, who has been scoring for fun in Serbia and for the Ghana national team.
Conte’s scouts are supposedly planning to watch the Celtic and Swansea City target when Arsenal take on Red Star in the Europa League this week.
Here is the lowdown on Boakye.
WHO IS RICHMOND BOAKYE?
Boakye started his professional career in Ghana before being scouted by Genoa in 2008. After initially struggling to break into the first-team at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, he joined Serie B side Sassuolo and enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in 2011/12, scoring 12 goals in 34 appearances as they narrowly missed out on promotion to Serie A.
Attracting admiring glances from several clubs, Boakye’s performances in Italy’s second-tier helped him clinch a move to Juventus, then coached by Conte, before being immediately loaned back to Sassuolo.
Boakye added another 11 goals to his portfolio and was sent on loan to Elche in Spain to gain more first-team experience, where he scored seven times in 33 appearances for the La Liga outfit.
But he failed to smash the glass ceiling in Turin and was sold to Atalanta in 2014. Spells with Roda JC in the Netherlands and Latina in Serie B followed, but it wasn’t until he joined Red Star in 2016 that Boakye found his best form.
After landing in the Serbian capital in January this year, Boakye hit the ground running, scoring 16 goals in 19 appearances in all competitions as Red Star finished second in the Serbian SuperLiga behind rivals Partizan.
He grabbed headlines recently by reaching 30 goals for 2017, rubbing shoulders with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Harry Kane in the process, albeit against lower-calibre opposition.
Regardless, Boakye has developed a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net and it’s only natural that other European clubs are sitting up to take notice.
Considering domestic football in Serbia isn’t exactly covered enthusiastically on these shores, Boakye’s opportunity to attract potential suitors has been in the Europa League, where he has duly obliged.
Red Star started their Europa League campaign in June, going through four stages of qualification to reach the group stages.
In those eight qualifying games and the subsequent two group ties, Boakye has scored eight goals in ten appearances, so he has certainly carried over his domestic form into competitive European action.
In fact, Boakye scored the winner as Red Star clinched a 1-0 win away to Cologne last time out and will host Arsenal at the Rajko Miti? Stadium this week in fine spirits, having accrued four points from their first two games.
Boakye’s bright displays as the focal point in attack has been pivotal to their promising campaign thus far and it was impossible to ignore the sheer quality of his winner against Cologne.
Chasing down a long ball, Boakye held off the defender while creating a yard of space for himself, proceeding to launch an unstoppable drive high into the net from 25 yards.
The confidence not only to attempt but execute such a strike was enough to stun the RheinEnergieStadion into silence – and provided a thrilling snapshot of what the striker is capable of producing.
Beyond wonder goals, though, Boakye has shown a range of finishing that has set him apart in Serbia, with his résumé stocked with everything from classic poacher finishes, clinically-dispatched penalties and putting the finishing touch in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper.
Precision, composure and class, when faced with a variety of different potential goalscoring scenarios, is what has helped him register such eye-catching tallies.
CAN HE CUT IT AT CHELSEA?
Quick, powerful and always willing to play off the last man, Boakye has a lot of the qualities necessary to thrive in the Premier League.
Conte is aware of the player from their brief time together at Juventus and, although the Italian may not have been able to offer a glowing assessment back then, any scout reports handed to him at this stage will surely highlight his upward trajectory and consistency in front of goal, particularly in the past 12 months.
With his strike-force looking somewhat threadbare in Morata’s absence, Conte is almost certainly drawing up a list of potential targets for the club to pursue in January.
Should Boakye continue in the same vein, especially in the upcoming double-header against Arsenal, it’s not a stretch to imagine his name being included on such a list.
And if Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace proved nothing else, it would be a good time for the forward to mark Conte’s card.