The decision to sign 18-year-old Gabriel Slonina from the MLS this past summer can be easily categorised as one for the future, or at the very least, a low-risk deal that could offer big value to Chelsea.
Slonina had attracted interest from several European clubs months before his eventual transfer to Chelsea was confirmed in July. As football.london reported, Bayern Munich and Wolves were both said to hold some interest, with the sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich back in March potentially derailing Chelsea's chances.
Real Madrid later came in, but Chelsea won out for the Chicago Fire keeper. "It's been an honour to play for Chicago Fire, and it's gonna be an honour to play for Chelsea as well". Slonina told The Evening Standard back in September.
"My friends always sent me screenshots of the internet rumours and my name with one of the best clubs in the world. It is still a bit weird as Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs and to think where I started from to get to that point is unbelievable.
"I almost thought it was fake [when Cech called]. I had to listen in to make sure it was him. Luckily I didn't hang up. I couldn't believe that I was talking to Petr Cech, so to listen to him and his advice was an honour."
Slonina's final game for Chicago came in October's 1-1 draw with New England as the Illinois-based club finished 12th in the MLS table. After Slonina's £12m move was confirmed in July, the goalkeeper will officially make his move to England in January, with the next step uncertain.
The expectation will likely be another loan to get him regular minutes, but he joins Chelsea at an interesting time, given the situation currently faced by Graham Potter and the club's new owners. Edouard Mendy is not the dominant presence he was 12 months ago, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making a resurgent comeback into form. Mendy's contract situation is also in limbo; rejecting an offer recently, and now reports have suggested he is considering his future at the club.
Todd Boehly will be hoping that Slonina can offer the value Mendy has undeniably provided to Chelsea since his £22m signing from Rennes in 2020, even if his reputation might not be as strong as it was in 2021. Arrizabalaga is likely to remain Potter's number one heading into the new year, but Slonina throws a wildcard into the mix for the upcoming battle for first choice.