By Chris Myson
Chelsea's year-long pursuit of Bayer Leverkusen winger Andre Schurrle appears to be coming to a successful end after the two clubs officially agreed a deal thought to be worth around €22 million.
New manager Jose Mourinho has clearly given his own stamp of approval to the approach of the Germany international, a drawn-out affair that always looked like ending in a transfer after the player was denied a move at this time last year.
Having come through the ranks at Mainz, where Schurrle enjoyed two impressive Bundesliga seasons in the first team, he sealed a move to Leverkusen in a deal which was reportedly worth close to £7m and he continued to impress after making the step up to one of Germany's top clubs.
Two more successful years at the BayArena have now proved enough for the 22-year-old to seal his move to one of Europe's biggest teams.
Last season, Schurrle played a part in every one of Leverkusen's games as they finished third to seal a place in the Champions League group stages for next season. In those 34 league matches, he scored 11 goals and created seven more. He added an additional three strikes and two assists in eight games in the Europa League and DFB-Pokal.
|THE VIEW FROM GERMANY
"In Germany, Schurrle is seen as one of the great young players by the majority.
"He did have some poor games this season - which highlights that he is not yet completely consistent - but he certainly has the talent. He could develop his game without as much pressure at a 'smaller' club like Leverkusen , so it will be interesting to see how he copes with the next step.
"In the national team, Schurrle cannot be counted among the key players right now but he has occasionally made a positive impact from the substitutes' bench and the coach, Joachim Low, is definitely fond of him.
"Particularly due to the fact that he is so quick, Schurrle should do well in the Premier League, although he will need to learn that it is not good to go down easily or dive in England, as he has done at times in Germany recently."
John Brandi | Goal Germany
The signing certainly makes a lot of sense for the Europa League winners, with the forward's style adding not only quality to an already gifted attacking unit but also providing Mourinho with a very different type of attacking option upon whom to call.
Schurrle's best position is as a left winger so he would most likely be deployed on the left-hand side of Chelsea's attacking trident behind a main striker in the 4-2-3-1 system.
He can also operate as a lead striker but has had limited success when played in that role so would likely only be drafted in if there were injuries to the likes of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, Romelu Lukaku or any other new centre forward who arrives this summer.
The three spots behind the striker in Chelsea's side already look impressive. The Blues boast one of the best attacking units in European football in the form of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard.
It may seem strange, then, that Chelsea have invested a large amount of money in a position where they are already blessed.
Mata, Oscar and Hazard are all ideally suited to the formation and still have their best years ahead of them.
Chelsea also have the versatile Victor Moses and Marko Marin as backup options and Kevin De Bruyne is still on the books, so Schurrle has clearly been bought to provide some variation and balance, rather than just to fill a bare area in the squad that needed to be reinforced.
While the Blues already have several players sharing their new man's position, what they do not have is a player sharing his unique blend of skills.
Schurrle's style of play is based on his extreme pace, dribbling and lethal long-range shooting. While he is not a traditional winger who will hog the touchline, he has a direct approach and an end product, highlighted by the number of goals he has scored from wide areas.
In that sense – in terms of style - he is very similar to former Stamford Bridge star Arjen Robben rather than the likes of Mata, Oscar and Hazard. While Schurrle clearly possesses ability on the ball, the aforementioned trio are far more technically gifted players who will drift infield and look to cut open defences with their strong techniques and high levels of creative ability.
With his pace, finishing and direct style, Schurrle offers a very different option in terms of what is currently in the squad.
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While there are many positive aspects regarding the player's progress, some questions over his credentials as a top-class performer do remain.
In three years at international level, Schurrle has had his moments but is yet to cement a place in the first XI or consistently replicate his club form for his country. He is currently unlikely to make the Germany starting team for next summer's World Cup – much will depend on how he performs in England.
While his pace, athletic ability and playing style would, on the face of it, suit the Premier League, he does remain untested outside of the Bundesliga and has only played six matches at the truly top level of the Champions League - so, despite his promise, there is no complete guarantee of success.
But Chelsea know that they have not signed the finished article and the vast array of options they already have in their squad should slightly reduce the pressure on their new arrival, allowing him to be given time to develop under the leadership of Mourinho.
Another top-level attacking option gives the club further opportunity to rotate regularly over the course of a busy season and, even though he will still be expected to provide a decent impact in his first campaign, the Blues also have the future in mind with this acquisition.
Schurrle may not become the immediate star man in Chelsea's pursuit of Premier League and Champions League success but all the signs suggest that he is yet another exciting young talent who should be able to immediately complement the current squad and continue growing along with a team whose future is starting to look very bright.