With the summer transfer market now underway and the number of rumors nearing the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy, now is as good a time as any to analyze what new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho can do to improve the players currently on the Blues roster.
And it's so nice to finally be able to write a story about the self-anointed "Special One" without having to talk about Mourinho in a speculative way. I'd join the royal blue-blooded mob and say "Welcome home Jose," but I highly doubt the 50-year-old Portuguese legend will be calling London "home" a decade from now.
Just a thought.
Here's a look at eight guys, at this particular moment in time, who look to be part of Chelsea plans for the 2013-14 season, and whom Mourinho could really help with his managerial experience.
Probably the player who surprised the masses the most for Chelsea last season, Cesar Azpilicueta certainly proved he deserves to be the club's starting right-back.
And Mourinho would be very wise to pencil in the 23-year-old Spaniard as a starter from day one.
The new Blues manager would also be wise to tell Azpilicueta it's okay to push forward to try to score a couple of goals from his position, an extremely nice addition most Chelsea defenders provided last season.
Azpilicueta has a solid shot, and with thighs as thick as Jennifer Lopez’s rump, the man many simply choose to call "Dave" can possibly evolve into an offensive threat, both passing- and shooting-wise under Mourinho's tutelage.
He also has enough speed to recover from any offensive forays downfield and hustle back to his right-back spot to hold down the defensive fort on the flank.
Who knows whether or not uncle Roman Abramovich and Mourinho will decide to cut the cord on Blues captain John Terry this summer, but if they do, Gary Cahill is an excellent option to have to plug in at left center-back.
According to The Guardian, former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele claims Terry was part of the reason Mourinho left Stamford Bridge in 2007.
Terry has been linked to moves to clubs such as Monaco and Galatasaray, as The Telegraph reports, and has asked for talks with Mourinho in hopes of getting a contract extension and staying with Chelsea until his retirement.
"I am a coach who looks for a meritocracy. Whoever I think is best must play—without looking at status or the past."
The Mirror reports that Mourinho and Chelsea have shown an interest in Porto center-back Eliaquim Mangala, who, if acquired, may be the guy to essentially send Terry packing. But having a now-experienced Cahill to turn to will make that potential decision that much easier if management decides to go that route.
The 27-year-old Englishman seldom gets the kind of credit he deserves from the sometimes rabid Chelsea masses, but he proved he can score the timely goal several times last season, and his save in the closing seconds of the Europa League final against Benfica was simply a cup-winner.
Under Mourinho's guidance, Cahill could really thrive and become a regular starter at center-back and start to get some of the respect he deserves.
Another much-maligned Blues player who may flourish under Mourinho is 26-year-old Brazilian Ramires, who can be used in the central midfield or as a winger.
With blazing speed and an ability to start in a defensive or offensive position in Chelsea's tactical formation, Ramires may really blossom under The Special One.
And should the Blues switch to a 4-3-3 formation, Ramires could evolve into even more of an offensive threat on the right side either on a wing or as part of the advanced midfield.
Although still extremely early in the transfer window, maybe the best move Chelsea has made so far is not to loan out or sell midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
The extremely talented Belgian international—who has a contract with the Blues until 2017—has been loaned out to both Genk and Werder Bremen over the last year-and-a-half and has not yet featured for Chelsea.
This Daily Mail report claims that De Bruyne has been sought after by Bayer Leverkusen as part of a potential deal for winger Andre Schurrle, as well as Borussia Dortmund, but the Blues have held steadfast on keeping him camp, and rumblings he may get his chance at Stamford Bridge this season are getting louder.
Mourinho actually traveled to Brussels to watch De Bruyne play for Belgium against Serbia in their World Cup qualifier on Friday, and Sky Sports reported that Leverkusen was informed by Chelsea that the 21-year-old was not available.
Wise move, Mr. Mourinho. Very wise move.
De Bruyne has been absolutely brilliant on a Belgian squad chock full of stars—including Chelsea's Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois—and even though the Blues' advanced midfield is already loaded with talent, keeping De Bruyne and saving the money for a striker or defensive center-back seems much wiser.
Under Mourinho, De Bruyne would certainly flourish and the thought of a possible Juan Mata-Hazard-De Bruyne midfield must make other teams in the English Premier League cringe.
Knowing Chelsea has finally made a decision to give him his shot combined with Mourinho's tutorship could lead to a long and prosperous career in West London for the Belgian kid who has proved he can play with the best of them.
It's no wonder Dortmund would absolutely love to have De Bruyne. Who wouldn't?
Make Eden Hazard better? What in the name of God's green earth are you smoking there Senor Stott?
Hey, settle down, you fickle Bleacher Report readers, or I'll sick my pet tiger Matthew on you to take large chunks out of your pasty little English ankles. They're called Marlboro Lights, brother. It's Sunday for God's sake. Please check yourselves.
Anyway, it's hard to imagine the 22-year-old "Belgian Messi" getting any better, but, as he recently admitted in this report from The Guardian, he needs to shoot more. And under Mourinho, I imagine Hazard (nine goals, 11 assists in EPL) would be given that green light and prompted to put go for goal more.
With teammates like Mata, Frank Lampard, Lukaku and possibly even Edinson Cavani, Hazard's primary role should probably be to feed the beasts, but with a progressive manager who will likely stay in West London for some time, it wouldn't surprise Chelsea fans to see Hazard evolve into a 15/15 or maybe even a 20/20 guy someday.
He's that good.
And under Mourinho, we should see exactly how good.
Quite often the forgotten man on Chelsea's roster, Victor Moses could explode under Mourinho's care and possibly become one of the best substitutes in England's top flight.
The 22-year-old Nigerian is still incredibly young, and although he probably didn't get as much time on the pitch as he probably would have liked last season, the former Wigan Athletic man has an awful lot of upside.
Mourinho would be well served to work on passing with Moses, especially with so many scoring threats likely to be on the Blues roster when the new season finally begins in August.
Moses helped lead Nigeria to the Africa Cup of Nations in a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso and is one of the most talented players in the Premier League from the continent.
What will prove to be important for Moses from new manager Mourinho is a defined role on the club, especially if the Blues change from their familiar 4-2-3-1 formation to something new.
Chelsea and Mourinho would be better off selling or trading at least five other unnamed players than letting a player of Moses' potential go this summer.
....And one of those aforementioned unnamed players will actually be named: Demba Ba.
Like Fernando Torres, Ba's output at the striker spot last season left an awful lot to be desired from Chelsea fans, and you know when your defenders are scoring as much, if not more, than your strikers, you may be in the marketplace for some players with a proven track record of scoring goals.
The 28-year-old Senegalese international only scored three times in EPL play since arriving from Newcastle United over the winter transfer period for £7 million, and with clubs like Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool rumored to be interested in Ba, according to the Daily Mail, maybe selling him now for a decent profit and using the money to go after Hulk or Wilfried Bony would make good business sense.
The Daily Mirror reported that Ba may have some ways to go toward convincing Mourinho to keep him around SW6, and with guys like Cavani, Hulk, Schurrle, Bony, Wayne Rooney and Stevan Jovetic all out there, maybe selling him this summer is the best idea for all parties concerned.
And should Torres somehow end up staying with Chelsea—along with Cavani and Lukaku—then surely Ba would have to wave goodbye.
But if anyone could snap a scorer out of a scoring funk it's Mourinho, and Ba's potential and frame (6'2", 189 pounds) are both big enough to gamble on depending on what transpires over the next two months and what Mr. Mourinho thinks he can do with him as a player.
Chelsea made a very wise decision in 2011 to sign striker Romelu Lukaku from Anderlecht for a £17 million fee, but in retrospect, the Blues probably made a very dumb move loaning him to West Bromwich Albion this past season considering how Torres, Ba and Daniel Sturridge ended up playing up top.
The 20-year-old Belgian—yes, he's only a year older than Justin Bieber, sister—scored 17 goals in 35 matches for the Baggies in Premier League action and garnered much attention from soccer fans worldwide. ESPN now report that the striker has earned his spot on the Blues' first-team roster.
"I'll play for Chelsea next season," Lukaku said. "I had a chat with Jose and he'll put me in his squad."
Lukaku wants to keep his form sharp with it being a World Cup year in 2014, and playing alongside midfielders like Mata, Hazard, Oscar and fellow countryman De Bruyne, he will certainly have the teammates to help quench his scoring thirst.
Toss in Mourinho, who helped Didier Drogba—who Lukaku is often compared to—flourish at Stamford Bridge during The Special One's last reign at Chelsea, and Lukaku should be able to score 17 more this season as well as help in the Champions League should he be given the proper amount of playing time.
Lukaku is the real deal, and it appears his time has finally come at Stamford Bridge.
So much more will definitely happen over this transfer period, but for Chelsea to have already gotten Mourinho back in the fold, committed to giving youngsters Lukaku and De Bruyne their chance and possibly already landed Cavani, then it's no wonder Blues fans are feeling a little bit giddy these days.
And after having Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez go through Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's seemingly never-ending revolving door at the club, having Mourinho around for a while should provide some much-needed stability, which should eventually serve the Europa League champions well.
With so many young and possibly new parts joining the team, having a man like Mourinho to bring it all together will certainly be a spectacle to watch in West London, and I imagine the players will be listening way more closely and have way more respect for their new manager than they have had for the last handful who have walked the touchline.
So buckle in, celery heads. This is about to get really good.
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