Chelsea may be 90 minutes away from a much coveted UEFA Champions League title, but supporters everywhere need to embrace the reality that a title would be a false dawn.
The writing is on the wall that Chelsea is on the verge of having to rebuild its squad and might have a rough future ahead.
If nothing else, Tuesday’s league match against Liverpool was an interesting experiment in squad rotation and chemistry where some lessons can be taken away.
Sure, key players including Juan Mata, Frank Lampard, and Didier Drogba were rested while players such as John Terry and Ramires were weary from the exertion at Wembley only three days earlier. However, the match may be a result that the club will have to endure, at least at first, as some squad regulars move on. And the holes made by their departure will be harder to replace under Financial Fair Play (FFP).
It is likely that Paulo Ferreira and Jose Bosingwa will be sent packing this summer while Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and Florent Malouda will be sold. And, of course, Didier Drogba is out of contract.
These holes will be no real problem to fill with the current players in waiting. However, the unpredictable nature of owner Roman Abramovich is another thing entirely.
If Chelsea does win the Champions League final next Saturday, he could consider this part of his “project” done and sell off the Jose Mourinho remnants to usher in a new period of domination. Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, and even Mr. Chelsea himself, J.T., could all be given the famed Abramovich axe for mission accomplished. That leaves the squad without a captain and a long list of established players to replace.
So the question is, “Where will the players come from?”
Bit players would need to step up while there would be one or two major signings and some bargain deals. This week’s revelation that Lille winger Eden Hazard will be moving to Chelsea or Manchester City is promising since the team has been lacking a real winger since Arjen Robben left. And the team is sure to pursue Tottenham’s Luka Modric again, as it did last year.
But Abramovich would have to choose. I can’t imagine FFP allowing that much money in transfers to go out.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, fresh off winning the Europa League title, could come in for Cech. Josh McEachran would need to finally make good on his promise and play alongside a revitalized Mikel. Ryan Bertrand would need to capitalize on this season’s solid displays to show his worth at left back. Newly signed Marko Marin and January transfer Kevin De Bruyne would provide options on the wing and in midfield. And Daniel Sturridge would be moved, finally given his chance as a sole striker upfront.
The only problem areas are defense. Chelsea would need to buy a solid right back to take over for or deputize under Branislav Ivanovic. Cover would also be needed at left back and the center.
Scouring the market for a bargain would go against the Abramovich type of spending big and asking questions later, but FFP would make it a necessity lest Chelsea have a thin backline.
So the choice team would more than likely appear something like this:
Ivanovic — Luiz — Cahill — Bertrand
McEachran — Mikel
Ramires — Mata — Hazard
Subs: Turnbull, Meireles, Marin, De Bruyne, Sturridge.
The last piece of the puzzle is determining who would manage this squad.
If current interim manager Roberto Di Matteo is handed the reigns, it would provide some stability, but he would be reluctant to let the club legends go. And if Abramovich does want to start new, he might as well get a new manager to go with an overhauled squad and potential stadium at Battersea Power Station.
Is this scenario the best option? No. Is it the worst? Not if Torres continues to find his footing and the players who have shown promise this season take the next logical step.
It’s true that the club can’t seem to function without it’s stalwarts, but their departure is going to happen sooner or later.
And Chelsea’s greatest glory could lead to its biggest shakeup.