Moises Caicedo one that got away from Liverpool – now he is finding his feet at Chelsea

Moises Caicedo with Mauricio Pochettino during Chelsea's FA Cup draw with Aston Villa

Chelsea’s plan had been to parade their British record signing Moises Caicedo at the opening game of the season against Liverpool, but Wednesday night will be the midfielder’s first chance to show the Anfield club what they are missing.

The deal could not quite be completed in time for Chelsea to rub Liverpool’s noses in it at Stamford Bridge in August after Jurgen Klopp failed with a late bid to hijack Caicedo’s move, but the London club still took a final chance to gloat over the £115 million deal.

Unveiling Caicedo as their player barely 24 hours after the opening-day draw with Liverpool, Chelsea recreated an old picture of him with his mother, posing in a Chelsea shirt, under the caption “It’s only ever been Chelsea”.

Although Liverpool go into Wednesday night’s match on top of the Premier League table, Caicedo’s decision to turn down a move to Anfield in favour of Chelsea clearly stung.

Liverpool also missed out on Romeo Lavia to Chelsea and, speaking at an Anfield Road test event, Klopp let his guard down by saying: “The summer we had, we had a few strange things happen in the transfer market but here, between us, I can say ‘My god, were we lucky, eh?”

The crowd laughed at Klopp’s joke, but, while Lavia has made only one appearance because of injuries, Caicedo has given Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino encouragement that he will turn those smiles to grimaces and prove himself to be one of the best midfielders in the world.

“Yes, I think so,” said Pochettino. “Chelsea and Liverpool offered the same type of money, so not only Chelsea but Liverpool believe he can be one of the best midfielders in the future.

“After that, it’s about adaptation. He didn’t do a pre-season, he had some problems when he was travelling for international duty. It’s too many things that delayed the adaptation to the team and to the club.

“But there’s no doubt he has the profile to be one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. He already was showing in Brighton that he was capable of that.”

Chelsea’s opening bid for Caicedo was £60m and the fact the club eventually had to pay almost double that is in part down to Liverpool, who, as exclusively revealed by Telegraph Sport at the time, made a surprise £111 million offer.

Moises Caicedo is unveiled as a Chelsea player
Chelsea secured Caicedo...but too late to unveil him on the pitch against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge - Getty Images/Darren Walsh

Klopp was hopeful that the bid and Brighton’s apparent preference to sell to Liverpool, was enough to clinch his signature and the German is believed to have said as much in a message sent to the player indicating they were looking forward to seeing him for his medical.

But Liverpool had not bargained for all the groundwork Chelsea, led by co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali and sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, had put in during the preceding weeks and months which had already made up Caicedo’s mind - together with his boyhood support of the club.

Caicedo was Chelsea’s first choice from day one of the summer transfer window and the club’s single-minded pursuit of him made Liverpool’s hijack attempt, at the end of a summer in which they first prioritised Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, immaterial - he was only going to Stamford Bridge.

Asked if he had been surprised to hear that Caicedo had rejected Liverpool in favour of holding out for a move to Chelsea, Pochettino replied: “I wasn’t involved in the negotiations. I think the connection from the past, I believe that Paul (Winstanley) was involved when he signed for Brighton. Maybe Moises wanted to sign for Chelsea, not only because of the club but also because of people that were involved with him before, in the negotiation when he arrived to the Premier League with Brighton.”

The fact Caicedo signed for the club, rather than specifically for Pochettino, has become more significant after Klopp’s announcement that he will stand down as Liverpool manager at the end of the season and the club’s need to replace sporting director Jorge Schmadtke, who will leave his post this week.

Those of a Liverpool persuasion who laughed at Klopp’s joke may not arrive at Anfield on Wednesday night wishing Caicedo had picked differently, given the position of the two clubs, but they will if the 22-year-old makes the kind of progress Pochettino believes he is capable of.

Moises Caicedo on the ball in Chelsea's FA Cup draw against Vila
Caicedo's form has mirrored Chelsea's by gradually improving in recent weeks - Getty Images/Ryan Pierse

“Sometimes the amount you pay is because they are going to come and the day after they will perform,” said Pochettino. “But now you want to sign a good player with the potential to be one of the best in their position.

“Remember when [Zinedine] Zidane or Kaka went to Real Madrid - they paid a big amount of money. Zidane was 26 or 27 [he was 29]. I think it took seven or eight months for him to perform because expectation is massive and adaptation is difficult. The pressure is massive.”

Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson was flying back from the Ivory Coast, where he competed in the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, to Manchester on Tuesday night in time to be part of Pochettino’s squad for the trip to Liverpool.

Jackson is due to meet up with the rest of the squad on Wednesday morning with a view to be among Chelsea’s substitutes at Anfield.

Pochettino joked that he would have been prepared for Jackson to parachute into Anfield if it meant having him available, saying: “If it means we have a one per cent more chance to win the game for sure we will try it! But I don’t know if he is brave enough to jump.

“We are waiting. All I can say is that maybe he will be there. The other day Ghana lost and were out and Inaki Williams arrived a few hours before and played in the second half to beat Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. Why can’t Jackson arrive and score the winning goal?”

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