Chelsea's Biggest Summer Transfer Window Needs Following Third Place EPL Finish
It's going to be a busy summer at Stamford Bridge.
Not only will Chelsea be employing a new manager, outgoing interim boss Rafa Benitez has hinted at the club spending lavishly in order to usurp Manchester United and Manchester City in the title race.
Following Chelsea's Europa League victory over Benfica on Thursday, Benitez said he expects the Blues to spend in excess of £100 million (via The Guardian) on new talent, but where will it be spent?
As ever, Chelsea have been linked with a host of big stars. Rather than recruit players with box office billing, though, the Blues need to be intelligent when signing players they need as opposed to those they want.
This is a Chelsea team already bursting at the seams with young talent, and with some minor tweaks and strengthening in key areas, they will undoubtedly have a bigger say in where the Premier League title resides in 12 months.
The prospect of £100 million being spent on players sounds an exciting one, but if it's not spent wisely, the Blues could very well find themselves enduring another difficult campaign.
With the domestic season now officially over, Bleacher Report takes a look at the key areas Chelsea need to address if they're to improve on their third-place finish of 2012-13.
1. Appoint a Strong Manager
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Before splashing the cash on bringing in new playing talent, the top of Chelsea's priority list will be employing the club's next manager this summer.
Upon reflection, Roman Abramovich stands vindicated with his move to appoint Rafa Benitez on an interim basis following the departure of Roberto di Matteo in November.
The Spaniard has guided the Blues to third in the table, and they've also added more silverware to the trophy cabinet by lifting the Europa League.
Benitez has steadied the ship for whoever takes over for him, but who will that man be?
All the reports strongly suggest it will be Jose Mourinho, and the charismatic Portuguese is just what the club requires.
He is strong willed and asserts his authority on the dressing room, getting every ounce of talent out of his players. He has a track record of taking clubs forward, and Chelsea need a man of his ilk to shape the new generation at Stamford Bridge.
If it isn't going to be Mourinho, which, let's face it, seems incredibly unlikely, Chelsea need a manager with similar qualities to ensure they continue moving forward.
2. A Defensive Midfielder
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He's been at the club since 2006, but ask any Chelsea fan and they will tell you that John Mikel Obi has failed to live up to his billing.
The initial success under Jose Mourinho was massively influenced by Claude Makelele in defensive midfield, with Michael Essien later added to continue the Frenchman's work.
Mikel was seen as the heir apparent, and although he has filled that position in midfield, he has hardly become the world-class player many hoped he would. With the club hoping for a serious assault on the title next term, defensive midfield is one area that must be addressed—and quickly!
It may be a little too early to throw some of their promising youngsters into the fray on a regular basis—the likes of Nathan Ake and Josh McEachran, for instance—so Chelsea will need to look for an experienced head to fill the void.
Michael Essien is still very much a Chelsea player and has impressed at times for Real Madrid this season. If the Blues are committed to blooding their youngsters, the Ghanaian could prove a good alternative to give them time to mature, without the club spending millions on an established name.
Xabi Alonso has also been linked with the club (via The Independent) and, given his age and contract situation at Real Madrid, could be snapped up for a relatively cheap fee. Were that the case, the Spaniard's ability and experience could be worth a whole lot more as Chelsea's youngsters look to the future.
3. A Prolific Striker
Could Wayne Rooney be the man to fire Chelsea to the title next season?
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Talk in the UK press over the weekend was of Chelsea's apparent willingness to offload Fernando Torres in the summer.
The Sun claims the Blues are willing to cut their losses on the Spaniard to the tune of £30 million. That would be folly.
Not only do the Blues not want to lose a substantial fee on Torres, he's just scored 23 goals for them this season.
Say what you will, that is an excellent return for any striker, and as he showed with his superb solo goal in the Europa League final, he still has plenty to offer.
What Chelsea require is another world-class striker within their ranks to ease the burden. To expect any player to be on top form throughout an entire campaign is unrealistic, and up until Demba Ba's January arrival, Torres had been their only recognized striker.
With Romelu Lukaku returning on the back of a successful loan spell at West Bromwich Albion, Chelsea will have three strikers all capable of scoring goals. By adding a fourth, they will look a formidable proposition.
Edinson Cavani (via The Guardian), Falcao (via ESPN) and Manchester United's wantaway striker Wayne Rooney (via The Mirror) have all been linked in recent weeks. Any from that trio would give the Blues more than a shouting chance of lifting a fifth league title next term.
They already have a talented midfield with the likes of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard playing behind their strikers. So with more firepower further forward, Chelsea could be unstoppable.
4. Give Youth a Chance
Nathan Ake was voted Chelsea's Young Player of the Year this season.
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With all this talk of £100 million spending sprees, what must Chelsea's youngsters be thinking?
Promoting youth and putting faith in their Academy players to make the step up to the first-team has been a major problem for Chelsea. Only John Terry and Ryan Bertrand have come through the ranks to make it as regulars in the past decade or more.
The club's youth team reached the NextGen Series final and FA Youth Cup final this season. They lost on both occasions, but it outlines the ability they have in the lower age groups. They need to start giving that ability a chance.
Nathan Ake has made a handful of appearances and impressed this term, while Josh McEachran and Nathaniel Chalobah have excelled during loan spells in the Championship with Middlesbrough and Watford, respectively.
It begs the question: With players like this at their disposal, do Chelsea really need to spend cash at the sums being suggested right now?
This summer needs to be about moving the first-team forward and also integrating their youth. There are many ways this can happen as they enter the new campaign, with so-called lesser competitions such as the Capital One Cup targeted in 2013-14.
It's always a risk bringing any youngster into the team, but so too is spending £20 million on a player.