Despite Blackburn Rovers’ attempt to avoid relegation from the Premier League picking up steam with a 3-1 against-the-odds win over Fulham, captain Christopher Samba this week handed in a transfer request in the face of interest from Queens Park Rangers, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham Hotspur. Losing his skipper would be an immense blow to Rovers manager Steve Kean, as the towering Congo centre-back has been the backbone of Blackburn since Mark Hughes first brought him to England in January 2007.
The Guardian reported this week that with Hughes also sizing up Chelsea defender Alex and Manchester City’s versatile Nedum Onouha, Samba may fall off the wish list but, as seen at City where Hughes drafted in Roque Santa Cruz, the new QPR boss is a manager who prefers to work with players he already knows.
Should Samba’s admirers be successful in prising him away from Kean – although with Rovers rejecting the defender’s transfer request it is far from certain – the perennially-under-pressure Scot would be left with a gaping hole at the heart of his already-leaky defence. Blackburn has conceded 44 goals in its 21 league games, on average more than two in every match.
To withdraw Samba permanently from the back four would further dent a defence that has been hit lately by injuries to Samba and potential partners Scott Dann, Ryan Nelsen and Gael Givet. The contractual wrangle involving Michel Salgado has also robbed the Blackburn rearguard of valuable experience, leaving Kean to fill the gaps with promising but untried youngsters, some of whom are midfielders pressed into an unfamiliar position.
A Different League’s Mushtaq Quraishi wrote on Samba last week: “[Samba] has not shown any signs on the pitch of his desire to leave. In fact…has arguably been Rovers’ best player,” underlining the straits Blackburn would find themselves in if the defender was to depart, but also highlighting exactly why QPR, PSG and Spurs are chasing the France-born player. His physical stature – at 6ft 4in and over 13st – and ability to match his size with excellent positioning and anticipation mark Samba out as an ideal Premier League centre-back.
With three-and-a-half years remaining on his Blackburn contract Samba may be denied his move until the summer, but the decisive factor could prove to be Rovers’ financial situation, described by the Guardian as “heavily in debt.” The possible £10m transfer fee may be a comfort to the Blackburn bean counters if Samba is sold before the end of the month, but if it also delivers relegation and the resulting drop in income, selling Samba could be the harshest of false economies.
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