It’s likely the Blues wouldn’t have signed him if Wesley Fofana wasn’t injured, but the defender could prove to be an inspired addition
On July 18, Chelsea’s pre-season preparations hit a sizable bump in the road. Wesley Fofana being omitted from the Blues’ tour of the United States just one day prior had sparked some concerns, but few could have predicted just how bad his injury would prove to be.
Fofana was poised for a big 2023-24 season, following a debut campaign plagued by fitness issues. Instead, he will have to watch Mauricio Pochettino’s new-look Chelsea side from the sidelines, with ACL surgery keeping him out of action for an extended period.Not only was the news a bitter blow for the player – who has already suffered more than his fair share of cruel luck on the injury front during his fledgling career – it also left the Blues with a big decision to make in the transfer market. With Cesar Azpilicueta and Kalidou Koulibaly already having departed west London this summer, Chelsea were suddenly looking perilously short at centre-back.
After spine-chillingly being linked with Harry Maguire a few hours after Fofana’s injury was confirmed, they have since gone in a different direction, swooping to sign Axel Disasi from Monaco for a reported fee of €45 million (£39m/$50m).
Disasi, 25, was somewhat of a late bloomer, not making his France debut until last year. But by securing this Chelsea move he is set to finally test himself at the very highest level after a few hype-building seasons in Ligue 1.
Disasi was born in Gonesse, a suburb of Paris, in 1998. He is eligible to represent DR Congo, as well as France, through his parents. After signing on with two local teams, he was spotted by Paris FC in 2014 and enjoyed a meteoric rise to the first team.
In December 2015, with Paris in the midst of an injury crisis, coach Jean-Luc Vasseur turned to a then 17-year-old Disasi for their Ligue 2 clash against French giants Lens. Vasseur explained his bold decision to Le Parisien at the time, saying: “I didn’t hesitate to put him in, so he shouldn’t hesitate on the pitch. I’ve never been afraid to put my faith in young players. Axel is the future of the club, he has great qualities. He’ll be well looked after and chaperoned. So there’s no reason why things shouldn’t go well.”
Disasi was similarly enthused by the prospect of making his league debut, thanking Vasseur for the “fabulous” opportunity – even if he did admit that the game would distract him from his schoolwork!
The match itself went well, with Lens triumphing 1-0 thanks to a bizarre, deflected goal. Disasi performed solidly and was rewarded with two further Ligue 2 appearances, though this time at right-back as opposed to centre-back.
After this brief run in the first team, he did not feature for a struggling Paris FC side again and therefore could not prevent them finishing stone-dead last in Ligue 2 that season.