Five weird Cole Palmer transfer nuggets: Chelsea wanted Arsenal outcast instead after Burnley ‘agreement’

Matt Stead
Arsenal player Kai Havertz, Chelsea owner Todd Boehly and forward Cole Palmer, Burnley coach Vincent Kompany and Emile Smith Rowe
Cole Palmer to Chelsea remains a weird transfer

Cole Palmer may have ended up at Burnley if Chelsea had signed their first two targets, including an Arsenal outcast. Mauricio Pochettino needed convincing.

The £42.5m deal which saw Palmer swap shades of blue remains one of the weirdest in recent times. It has proven to be money incredibly well spent but the circumstances which brought it about were as curious as the sudden subsequent rise.

Chelsea signing yet another forward. Manchester City selling an academy-developed prodigy to raise funds for Jeremy Doku. The complete lack of speculation beforehand. Pure profit. Pure chaos.


Mauricio Pochettino didn’t even really want Palmer

In fairness to Pochettino, he was absolutely not alone in needing to be ‘persuaded’ that the solution to Chelsea’s problems was simply to give another brilliant young wide forward a laughably long contract for an eye-watering transfer fee.

The Palmer signing finally pushed Todd Boehly past the £1billion spend threshold as owner but after the Blues started the season scoring five goals and conceding four in three games, it seemed as though defensive reinforcements were needed if anything.

A report in November from the Daily Mail’s Matt Hughes said that Pochettino felt his squad ‘had enough’ attacking players of a similar profile, with director of recruitment Joe Shields, the former head of academy recruitment and talent management at Manchester City, said to have ‘convinced’ the manager the deal was necessary. It has probably ended up saving his job a few times since.

Pochettino has never outright corroborated the claims, but did say when the move went through that, “I think it was one the sporting directors and owners who had the ideas to bring him to the squad”. Well if you throw enough etc and so on…

👉 The Traditional England Clamour is already galloping away with Cole Palmer to ruin the summer
👉 Cole Palmer logging non-existent ‘feats’ and ‘records’ as Van Dijk huddle blamed
👉 Are Chelsea ‘better off’ without Cole Palmer? Former Liverpool, Spurs stars suggest they might be

Chelsea targeted Crystal Palace and Arsenal stars instead

Perhaps related to that point is the fact Chelsea so openly pursued at least one other player ahead of Palmer, who only became a viable option late in the window after a quite public rejection.

For most of the summer, that place in the squad at Stamford Bridge was earmarked for Michael Olise. Manchester City and Liverpool were casting admiring glances at the Crystal Palace forward for months but Chelsea had laid the groundwork and, according to multiple reports at the time, at least verbally agreed personal terms with the Frenchman.

But a hilariously elaborate release clause akin to that of Luis Suarez’s at Liverpool was Chelsea’s undoing. Their £35m offer triggered nothing other than an eventual contract extension for Olise at Selhurst Park.

Even then, Palmer was not necessarily their next port of call. Chelsea did look to their elite brethren late in the window in response but it was Arsenal they contacted before Manchester City. A move for Emile Smith Rowe was floated and almost immediately rejected on the grounds that the Gunners wished not to sell to a direct rival.

Thankfully for Chelsea, those at the Etihad have never prescribed to such archaic thinking. And excellent as Smith Rowe has proven himself to be in the past, he would surely not have had this level of impact in new surroundings.


He has already surpassed the player he was meant to ‘replace’

The idea that Palmer was a sudden, previously entirely unconsidered target was slightly undermined months ago by Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph.

He described Palmer as the ‘one name that was raised’ during squad-planning discussions in the summer who Chelsea ‘feared Manchester City would simply refuse to do business on,’ and that initial overtures were made in June during negotiations over the Mateo Kovacic transfer.

It was at that stage that Chelsea first identified Palmer as the ideal ‘successor’ to Arsenal-bound Kai Havertz, but even taking into account the German’s Champions League final-winning goal for the Blues in Porto, it is not difficult to argue he has already been eclipsed.

Palmer is an unequivocal fan favourite in a way Havertz never was at Stamford Bridge, but even quantifiably the supposed replacement is ahead in a fraction of the time. Palmer has 20 goals and nine assists in 28 Premier League games this season, compared to Havertz’s 19 and seven in 91 matches.

Never mind Manchester City selling the wrong player; Arsenal quite obviously signed the wrong one.

PALMER FOR ENGLAND? 👉 The Traditional England Clamour is already galloping away with Cole Palmer to ruin the summer


Palmer could have been Moyesified, in a relegation battle or the Championship

Before this season, Palmer had played 1,361 minutes at senior level. Neither he nor Manchester City were satisfied with the rate of development and a change last summer was inevitable.

Even scoring in both the Community Shield and Super Cup finals was somewhat undermined by the Premier League game in between, when Palmer played ten substitute minutes of a season-opening stroll against Burnley.

It was the Clarets to whom Palmer was supposed to be sent at one point; the Athletic reported that ‘the framework of an agreement was in place’ for a Burnley loan, with Vincent Kompany having beaten fellow Pep Guardiola disciple Enzo Maresca of Leicester to the punch.

As Palmer himself said recently: “Initially I didn’t want to leave. I said I would go on loan and play for a year so I was ready for first team football more because I didn’t play a lot of minutes [last season]. But then Pep said ‘you’re either staying or you’re getting sold’ and, so yeah, I just got sold.”

That brought a similarly abrupt end to links with Brighton and Leipzig, while West Ham at least briefly broached the idea of Palmer being a makeweight during those doomed Lucas Paqueta talks with Manchester City. He is presumably still kicking himself at not being able to sit deep and play on the counter every other week.


He is the most prolific player at two teams this season

Starting his breakthrough season by scoring in two one-off finals gave Palmer a rate of goals per 90 minutes (1.43) which his Golden Boot rival Erling Haaland (0.88) has pathetically enough not been able to match so far.

The same cannot be said at Chelsea. No player can better his nice rate of 0.69 goals per 90 minutes in all competitions, but Carney Chukwuemeka can equal it thanks to his strike against West Ham in August, a crucial goal in stoppage time at home to Leicester in the FA Cup and a knee injury which sidelined him for four months.

Raheem Sterling (0.32) was the best Chelsea player for goals per 90 minutes last season. If Palmer plays every possible minute until the end of this campaign without scoring another goal, his rate of goals per 90 would still be far higher (0.54). But even he would surely struggle to rescue that Frank Lampard interim team.

READ NEXTChelsea signings under Todd Boehly ranked from obvious best to miserable worst

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! How can Gareth Southgate get Palmer in his England team for the Euros? Join the debate here

More: Chelsea | Cole Palmer