Why Chelsea's Italian target could be defensive disaster

Chelsea continue to be linked with Inter's Andrea Ranocchia but the towering defender is much maligned by pundits for good reason.

"Better not to get me started on Ranocchia - every year we wait for him to explode to life but he's now closer to 30 than 20 and we're still waiting."

These are the words of a frustrated Inter fan on a supporters' blog and they should serve as a stark warning to Chelsea: Andrea Ranocchia is not a sensible bet.

The comments were some of the milder to come in the aftermath of Inter's defeat against Lazio on Monday as Ranocchia was at fault for the only goal of the game from Miroslav Klose.

Defenders make mistakes, but this was by no means out of character for Ranocchia, in fact it is becoming something of a trademark.

At six foot five, Ranocchia is a giant. But what he gains in physical presence, he more than makes up for in awkwardness on the ball and a lack of awareness of danger - not a great trait for a centre-back. 

Time and again Ranocchia gets caught in possession or ignores a simple pass instead opting for a baffling form of defensive hari-kari. And that's not to mention the lapses in concentration. 

To be fair to Ranocchia, from an early age he has been subjected to a burden of expectation that could wilt even the most promising of talents.

Since 2009 when he starred in the Bari back-line alongside Leonardo Bonucci, the 25-year-old has been hailed as Italy's next defensive saviour, but while Bonucci has flourished, Ranocchia remains inconsistent.

Arriving at Inter via Genoa, Ranocchia found a side plagued with injury and already on a downwards path. Working in difficult circumstances last season, the Assisi native deserved credit despite the Nerazzurri's woeful defensive record - they were the joint second leakiest defence conceding 57. The simple fact that Ranocchia is regularly in Cesare Prandelli's national squad suggests he isn't all bad.

But the excuses have to stop at some point. Ranocchia may only be fractionally closer to 30 than 20, but mistakes from a 21-year-old Ranocchia that were written off as inexperience are less easy to ignore now - they seem to be indicative of a wider, irreparable problem.

To many Italian pundits it's a surprise that Jose Mourinho seems to rate Ranocchia so highly and that Chelsea are said to be preparing an offer.

While Ranocchia wouldn't shirk the physical challenge of the Premier League, it's somewhat scary to think of how he would respond to less time on the ball. He could be a liability.

Recent reports have suggested that Ranocchia's future may be linked to that of Fredy Guarin - if Chelsea want Guarin, they may have to take the centre-back too. They should think very carefully about that equation.

image: © Jason Bagley

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