Premier League • England

Gary Neville blasts Chelsea for disastrous ‘ego’ signing that could see Pochettino lose second star

Gary Neville, Chelsea midfielder Romeo Lavia

Gary Neville has criticised Chelsea for a transfer failure

Former Manchester United star Gary Neville has ripped into Chelsea for the unnecessary signing of Romeo Lavia, a deal he thinks came from the Blues’ huge ‘ego’ under the ownership of Todd Boehly.

Chelsea completed a midfield overhaul last summer, selling players such as Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek and seeing N’Golo Kante head to Al-Ittihad on a free transfer. In response, they spent huge money to sign Moises Caicedo, Lavia and Lesley Ugochukwu, after having smashed the British transfer record that January to land Enzo Fernandez.

Fernandez, Caicedo and Conor Gallagher have made up Mauricio Pochettino’s midfield three for a majority of the season. Despite shining at Brighton, Caicedo in particular has struggled at times, looking out of his depth when on the ball.

Pochettino would have liked to try out Lavia instead of Caicedo on occasion, but the ex-Southampton star has still only featured once for Chelsea.

Lavia was out of action between September and December with an ankle issue. He made his Chelsea debut during the 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace on December 27 but has since picked up a hamstring problem.

During Sky Sports’ latest Fan Debate, Neville has questioned why Chelsea even signed the 20-year-old, as his arrival could force the club into selling Pochettino favourite Conor Gallagher to prevent Profit and Sustainability issues.

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The pundit said: “They [Chelsea] went and bought Enzo, they go and buy Caicedo and then through their ego they went and bought Lavia on the final day of the transfer window for £54m and then they have to sell Conor Gallagher? They didn’t need Lavia, he’s not even played a game for them anyway.”

Chelsea left Liverpool incredibly frustrated in the summer transfer window by winning the race for both Caicedo and Lavia. Caicedo cost Boehly’s side an initial £100m, rising to £115m, while the deal for Lavia was reportedly worth between £54-58m.

Liverpool will be happy they missed out on Chelsea flop

Liverpool will now be extremely happy with the fact they signed alternative defensive midfielder Wataru Endo, as while the Japan international is older he has been far more reliable.

Last summer, former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit questioned why Caicedo and Lavia seemingly followed the money by heading to Stamford Bridge.

“The numbers are crazy in football now,” Petit said. “Sometimes it is justified, but most of the time it’s not. It’s a sign of how much you want that player and how much you’re willing to pay for them.

“Caicedo signed for Chelsea when he was linked with Liverpool, just like Romeo Lavia. I’m not going to say anything stupid but we all know why they went to Chelsea. Sportingly, the best decision right now would be to go to Liverpool.”

Petit added: “If I am Caicedo or Lavia, I’m going to Liverpool instead of Chelsea because I can’t see a clear plan for what is going on at Chelsea.

“Thirty-five players? Come on. How many players do they need? It’s going to be a nightmare just like what happened last season.

“If I was Caicedo I would have signed for Liverpool because I would reunite with Mac Allister and I would play with less pressure because so many of their midfield players have left the club.”

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