You heard it here first: Chelsea could win the Premier League next season.
Yes, that’s right, the Chelsea who at the moment are a mammoth 20 points behind Manchester United in the Premier League table.
The same Chelsea who are also out of the FA Cup and whose only remaining hope of winning a trophy this season is the Europa League, the poor relation of the Champions League title they won last season.
Amid all the strife, the dropped points, the Cup failures and the unsettling protests against current manager Rafa Benitez, Chelsea have still done enough to prove they could challenge the Manchester clubs and win the Premier League next season.
A lot will of course depend on who replaces the departing Rafa Benitez at Stamford Bridge in the summer.
In recent weeks, Chelsea’s former manager Jose Mourniho has openly speculated that he could return to the club he left six years ago.
“I love it here,” Mourinho said in The Daily Telegraph. “I have a house, I have big emotional connections with Chelsea. One day I think naturally I have to be back to English football or to Chelsea or to another club. Of course Chelsea means for me differently than the other clubs. Chelsea is in my heart as Inter is for example. So one day I have to be back.”
If Mourinho arrives back in London they could already book the open-top bus tour down the King’s Road for next May: The man virtually guarantees success.
The thought of his return is already concerning Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who two weeks ago said in the Telegraph, “If Jose goes back to Chelsea as they’re talking about, you’d be expecting a big challenge there.”
But if Mourinho decides to stay at Real Madrid or find another challenge elsewhere it has been reported in The Guardian that the backup plan is for Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini to take over, as Chelsea have already held talks with him about joining them in the summer.
He would be an astute appointment, having impressed in Spanish football with Villarreal and Real Madrid, and this season he took Malaga to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.
Whoever comes will inherit a squad of immense potential, and at their best Chelsea are the most attractive team in England.
In Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, Chelsea boast a trio of attacking midfielders with the flair and creativity to usher in a new era of success in the Premier League.
Most teams are lucky to have one playmaker. Chelsea have three.
Playing together for the first time this season, the trio have already shown their incredible movement, constantly swapping positions as they seek openings for each other and the rest of the team.
Thus far this season, Hazard, Oscar and Mata have scored 39 goals between them in all competitions—and remember, all from the midfield.
This is still Hazard and Oscar’s first season in English football, so next season this trio will be more settled and even better.
The greatest gift Chelsea could give this trio is a striker good enough to take advantage of all the chances they create.
The saga of Fernando Torres must finally must be resolved this summer.
He might have scored a healthy total of 20 goals this season, but only seven have come in the Premier League, and he still looks too slow, too uncertain and nothing like the player Chelsea thought they had signed for a record £50 million two-and-a-half years ago.
Demba Ba has provided support since his arrival in January, but while a good addition to the squad, he is not the answer.
Instead, imagine how Radamel Falcao, Robert Lewandowski or Luis Suarez would devour the chances this midfield serves up.
So while Chelsea have tried and failed to win seven trophies so far this season, and are still not guaranteed a place in the top four of the Premier League, next season offers the prospect of a new manager, a new striker and the growing influence of Mata, Hazard and Oscar.
The future looks promising.