Which Players Should Jose Mourinho Cull from His Chelsea Squad in the Summer?
Chelsea are often linked with the capture of multi-million pound superstars.
Indeed, this week alone has seen them linked with the likes of Brazilian forward Hulk, per The Guardian, while other big names continue to be lined by the media.
Before Chelsea bring in any new faces come the summer, however, Jose Mourinho will need to move some of his squad out of the door not only to balance the books but also to bring a better shape to the talent he has at his disposal.
There have already been some ruthless decisions as Mourinho fine-tunes his squad. Former hero Juan Mata was sold to Manchester United for £37.1 million in January and was followed quickly out of the door by Kevin De Bruyne, who joined Wolfsburg.
So who should be the next player to depart Stamford Bridge? Bleacher Report identifies five stars whose time may be up in West London.
John Obi Mikel
The capture of Nemanja Matic in January has shown Chelsea what they have been missing all these years in defensive midfield.
The Serbian has been excellent upon his return to Stamford Bridge, and while he's helped Chelsea to take hold of the title race with a seven-point lead at the top of the table, he's also highlighted the shortcomings of John Obi Mikel.
Mikel has been a Chelsea player since 2006, yet in those eight years he hasn't developed into the player the Blues hoped he would. Far from it.
Now Matic has taken the defensive midfield duties with aplomb, Mikel's position is looking ever more redundant.
The point of a player joining another club on loan is that he not only enjoys playing regularly but also shows the his parent club what he is capable of.
It's an opportunity for development, with all sides benefiting.
On that basis, Victor Moses' loan move to Liverpool has been a disaster. The Nigerian has rarely played, and when he has, he hasn't convinced either.
He has not lived up to that, however, showing with the Blues and Liverpool that he is out of his depth at the Premier League clubs.
He is a talent but not in the sense of what Chelsea need.
It's March and here we are, still debating Chelsea's strikers and their effectiveness.
Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his desire to bring in a new frontman for next season, but before he does, he will need to offload at least one of his current trio.
The first to go should be Demba Ba. He has been limited to cameo roles this season, and unlike Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o who—despite the criticism thrown at them—have been important in winning points at various stages this term, Ba's impact has been minimal.
Chelsea signed him for £7 million in January 2013, and after 18 months at the club, they should at least recoup that fee.
Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe wrote this week of how a permanent move for Ryan Bertrand from Chelsea to Aston Villa would make perfect sense for both clubs and the player.
You can read Tighe's column here.
Bertrand is currently on loan at Villa Park, and it seems the 24-year-old has found his level there.
It's true, he isn't quite the standard of a player required to make the grade at Stamford Bridge and is now at a stage in his career where he needs to be playing regularly.
In that sense, his loan move to Villa has been ideal, giving him game time and having a positive influence on Paul Lambert's side.
When his loan expires in the summer, it's difficult to see Bertrand being given opportunities at Chelsea next season.
He has long been surplus and Jose Mourinho should do the right thing by allowing him to leave and enhance his career elsewhere.
He may be making headlines while on loan with Atletico Madrid, but Thibaut Courtois isn't going to be replacing Petr Cech any time soon as the first-choice goalkeeper at Stamford Bridge.
And such is his talent, it would be criminal to keep him on the bench, waiting for his chance to take the No. 1 jersey.
Sure, at 21, Courtois has age on his side so can afford to wait, although he has shown during his three seasons in Spain that he is ready to be playing at the highest level right now.
Every club desires to have the best players, yet where goalkeepers are concerned, there is only room for one supremely talented man and Chelsea have theirs in Cech.
Were Chelsea to sanction a transfer for Courtois, it would make football and business sense, with the Blues making a tidy profit on a player who is yet to make a single appearance for them.
If Cech was nearing the end of his career, it would be a valid argument to replace him with Courtois. He is far from it, however, and will be Chelsea's first choice for many years yet.
Chelsea's Loan Stars
Alongside Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses and Ryan Bertrand, Chelsea have a further 25 players out on loan.
Those players deserve an opportunity to impress under Mourinho, although among their number are teammates who have had their opportunity and not taken it—players who are older and will not develop into the stars Chelsea need them to be.
Alongside the previous five names we have identified in our list, here are some of Chelsea's loan stars whom the club should consider offloading:
Patrick van Aanholt—Vitesse Arnhem
Sam Hutchinson—Sheffield Wednesday
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes