In Focus: Classy Fofana's return a huge Blues boost
Wesley Fofana's Chelsea career is finally gathering momentum after a false start.
The former Leicester defender was a long-term target for the Blues and finally completed a £75million switch to Stamford Bridge last August.
But a cruel knee injury has limited the 22-year-old star to just seven appearances for the Londoners so far, with his match-winning performance against Leeds his first top-flight start since October.
As Graham Potter's side look to recover from a 1-0 deficit in their Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund on home turf this evening, we put Fofana under the microscope.
Chelsea had been tracking Fofana for some time prior to landing the French international before the summer transfer window slammed shut.
Upon joining Leicester from Saint-Etienne in October 2020, the centre-back was voted the club's Young Player of the Season in a maiden campaign that saw him effortlessly establish himself as one of the top flight's best defenders.
He made 42 appearances for the Foxes in 2020-21 and was a revelation, with an impressive season culminating in the club’s first-ever FA Cup win — ironically beating Thomas Tuchel's Blues 1-0 in the Wembley showpiece.
And though Fofana missed a huge chunk of the following campaign due to a pre-season leg break sustained against Villarreal, the Chelsea were not deterred when it came to making a move.
Todd Boehly’s takeover of the West London outfit prompted a summer of big spending and Fofana was eventually secured for an initial £70m, with a further £5m in add-ons.
Leicester did their best to keep hold of their prized asset but once he made his desire to leave public knowledge, a switch became inevitable.
Fofana was making just his fourth appearance for the Blues against AC Milan last October when a knee ligament injury forced him off before the interval.
At that point, Graham Potter was in the early days of his Chelsea reign having been swiftly hired as a replacement for the axed Tuchel.
The Marseille-born ace would have been hoping to establish himself in his new manager's plans but was instead facing more than four months on the sidelines.
In that time, Benoit Badiashile was signed from Monaco, adding further competition to a centre-back pool already comprising of Thiago Silva, Trevoh Chalobah and Kalidou Koulibaly.
Yet when Fofana returned to full fitness last month, Potter wasted little time throwing him back into the first-team fold.
Giving a glimpse
Though Fofana's cameos in defeats to Southampton and Tottenham were understated, Blues fans were treated to a fine display from their No33 against Leeds.
In a game where Chelsea dominated possession, he was able to exhibit his impressive distribution with 81 completed passes, operating at a stunning 96.43% success rate.
Many of those balls were penetrative, looking to progress quickly into midfield rather than taking a safe option.
He also won all five of his aerial duels and topped off a fine afternoon's work when heading home Ben Chilwell's corner to seal a much-needed three points.
Against the Whites, Fofana lined up in a back three alongside Badiashile and Koulibaly — something he thoroughly enjoyed.
Post-match, he said: "I felt good. It feels good with Benoit and Kouli in a three. Today we win with a three as well, so it's perfect."
While this season has been bitterly disappointing on the domestic front, Fofana's return should give Chelsea fans hope for a more exciting future at Stamford Bridge.
Leicester legend Gary Lineker is a huge admirer of Fofana and believes many supporters still do not realise what a fine prospect they have on their hands.
Lineker said: "I said to some friends of mine who support Chelsea, 'you don't know how good this kid is yet'.
"He's been injured the whole time at Chelsea basically. But he's very special."
Tonight’s clash with Dortmund is exactly why Fofana joined the Londoners — to compete with the world's best players and chase Champions League glory.
Even if things do not go his way later, Chelsea will likely be back challenging on all fronts sooner rather than later.