With Mark Hughes having completed his new look attack, he is now turning to strengthening his defence.
Kolo Toureâ€™s Â£15 million transfer is likely to be concluded today, which will enable Hughes to fully concentrate on purchasing another centre-back. Sheikh Mansourâ€™s squillions were not enough to prise away John Terry from Chelsea but it may be enough to lure 27-year-old Philippe Mexes from cash-strapped Roma if Le Parisien is to be believed.
Mexes began his career at Auxerre and in his five years at the club he made 133 appearances before Roma beat a host of top European clubs to his signature shelling out â‚¬7 million. The Frenchman found it hard to establish himself in Serie A at first, and it was not until Sammy Kuffour left to play in the 2005 African Cup of Nations back with Ghana that Mexes got his chance to shine in the Giallorossiâ€™s first team. In the space of two months Mexes managed to make himself indispensable in the Roman rearguard, and ever since that point his first team credentials have not questioned by coach Spalletti.
The center-back stands at 6ft 1inch, hardly the tallest centre-back in world football, but Mexes is well-known for his incredible leapping ability which makes him outstanding in the air. Defensively this means that Mexes is able to contribute in clearing set-pieces and crosses into the box, while at the other end of the pitch Mexes is an offensive threat from corners and free-kicks.
Other qualities in Mexes’ arsenal are his strength and upper-body physique – significant attributions which should aid any introduction to the hustle and bustle of the Premier League. Opposition players will find it hard to knock him off the ball, while from a defensive standpoint Mexes looks well-equipped to battle it out with the league’s most powerful forwards such as Didier Drogba.
As with every footballer though, Mexes is not free from criticism, beginning with the defender’s lack of raw pace. Faced with a race against a speedy striker, Mexes is always likely to come of second best with the defender likely to be forced into a dangerous last ditch tackle. This deficiency links in with Mexes’ second shortcoming – his lack of temprement – which combined has seen the Frenchman regularly appear in the referee’s notebook. Last season, for example, he received nine yellow and two red cards.
Mexes is considered a lynchpin of the Roma team and is revered by the fans. The player himself seems content in Rome and the Frenchman’s agent, Olivier Joanneaux, stated last month that the player will not be moving from the Stadio Olimpico this summer.
However, Romaâ€™s sporting director Daniele Prade subtly hinted that Mexes may be up for sale due to the clubâ€™s dire financial situation. With two seasons remaining on his contract the directors see this as their last chance to get a large fee for the player. It is amazing how Â£150,000 leads to a footballer realising that he could actually be happy in a different city.
There have been reports that AC Milan and ironically Arsenal are interested acquiring Mexes. But if Hughes wants him he will get him. Whatâ€™s another Â£20 million?
Video evidence of Philippe Mexes can be seen here.