Zenit striker Hulk uploaded a photo of himself at Luton airport on social media website Instagram with speculation ensuing that he could be on his way to sign for London giants and title rivals Arsenal or Chelsea.
The 27-year-old Zenit front-man averages between ten and twenty goals per season, apart from two outstanding seasons at FC Porto in which he scored 36 goals and provided 21 assists in 2010/11 and netted 21 goals and made 15 assists in 2011/12.
With Blues boss Jose Mourinho being Portuguese and a former coach of Porto, he will be all too familiar with the forward’s talents which means, as well as Chelsea’s Brazilian connection (four of their regular starters are Brazil internationals) he would fit in very well at Stamford Bridge.
He is also made of the similar kind of stuff as Didier Drogba, probably Mourinho’s greatest ever signing for Chelsea, in that he is a powerful machine of a striker for whom physical supremacy is a huge part of his game; and with Chelsea’s wingers and wide-forwards Willian, Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle, as well as the strength of their fullbacks’ crossing ability, Hulk could storm the Premier League if he signed for the Blues.
He is also far more the kind of signing you would expect Chelsea to make, in my estimation, even though the Blues have the likes of Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba on their books, given his tendency to play as a right winger in recent months. His versatility is something that works in his favour, especially for a club like Arsenal.
Arsenal tend (the anomaly of Mesut Ozil aside) to buy players before they are fully developed stars and develop them in house. That i not to say that Arsene Wenger will not be prepared to spend the €40 million it would likely cost to get Hulk to the Emirates, but I also think his wage packet would be a huge stumbling block in any potential deal.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say, Wenger wouldn’t agree to a deal worth £6million-per-year for the Brazilian - which works out around £115,000 a week - in six million years.
Although Wenger smashed the club’s wage structure to sign Ozil who earns £7.28 million a year, I think that really is the limit and a rare anomaly for a manager as frugal as Wenger and a club like Arsenal who, despite chief executive Ivan Gazidis’ claims to the contrary this summer, I believe are reluctant to match the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Hulk isn’t the kind of prolific goal machine he was three or four years ago and, at any rate, the level of competition in Russia (and Portugal) is still below that of the English Premier League. There would be no guarantees he would be able to match that kind of record in the English capital and I don't think Wenger would risk that kind of money on a player that still has yet to prove himself on a consistent basis against the continent's best.
He would obviously, if he joined Arsenal, be huge competition for Gunners striker Olivier Giroud, but I believe the players are similar enough that the Gunners wouldn’t have to adapt their system to play to his strengths and requirements as a centre-forward but, on the flip-side, I don’t believe that Wenger would unsettle Giroud (and Lukas Podolski) in that manner. However, given the long-term injury to Theo Walcott who has been ruled out for at least six months, perhaps Wenger intends to bring Hulk in on the right flank but, with the emergence of youngster Serge Gnabry and the return to action of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, I would be inclined to rule that out as a possibility.
I think if Wenger brings in a striker this month at all it’ll be for much less than Hulk’s valuation, and it’ll be for a forward who can offer something genuinely different to what he already has and provide cover more than competition for Giroud. I think, if it’s between the two clubs, and I was a betting woman, my money would be on Chelsea to sign Hulk, not Arsenal.
image: © Steindy