As Chelsea's season nears its climax, it is once again time for the club to start thinking about which players will stay at Stamford Bridge and which players will leave when the summer comes around. In particular, they will have to consider the future of those senior members of the club whose contracts are running out—namely John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
Each of these three players has been at the club for a considerable amount of time and contributed significantly to many trophies and victories. However, it could be the last season that we see one or all of them in a Chelsea shirt. But who will stay, and who will go?
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho recently threw his backing behind his captain, Terry. Talking to the Mail Online, he stated that "the manager wants him to stay; the club know I want him to stay, the club want him to stay, he wants to stay, so normally he is staying."
That sounds a lot like Terry is staying. For both parties, this one is a no-brainer.
Terry has been in top form all season, and quite frankly, Chelsea cannot currently do without him. Granted, he did not have the best games against Crystal Palace or Paris Saint-Germain recently, but those were small blips in a long season.
Chelsea will still need to find a man in the summer who can succeed Terry in the long run, but while they bleed a new centre-back, the Blues will want their captain running the defence with his usual prowess. A one-club man, Terry will want to stay at the Bridge, and Chelsea will want to keep him.
Lampard is a more difficult conundrum. Chelsea were on the brink of letting him go in the middle of last season, but he eventually proved to the club that he is still the player who cemented himself into Chelsea legend—even if he is just a little bit older. Of course, he became Chelsea's all-time top scorer in the process.
Lampard has played a similar role this season, starting intermittently but usually playing an important part in crucial matches. That is why, like Terry, Lampard is still a player in whom Chelsea should put their trust. There may be plenty of midfielders who are vying for playing time at Stamford Bridge, but Lampard offers his skill, composure, dead-ball talent, as well as something unique from the rest of the midfield: experience.
Cole is another player who has been important for Chelsea in successful teams of recent years. He can also offer a great deal of experience. For some time, Cole was arguably the best left-back in the world, and it was unfathomable to imagine being able to find a replacement for him at Chelsea.
However, this season, we have witnessed the emergence of Cesar Azpilicueta as one of Chelsea's most important players and the man who has ousted Cole from the first team. Cole will not be best pleased with having to spend most of this season on the bench, and as such, it would be a surprise if he did not choose to leave the club himself, come summer.
When summer does arrive, Chelsea should let him go.
Although Azpilicueta is a natural right-back, he has been playing well enough that he could easily retain his place on the left side of the field. However, the Blues are likely to add another young left-back to the squad anyway, someone like Ryan Bertrand or Luke Shaw, to be Cole's successor.
Each of these three players has a history with the club, and though it can be tempting to value them based off of their past glories, it is important to take an objective view. When one does that, it is easy to see that both Terry and Lampard are key squad players for the Blues, but on the other hand, Cole is no longer worth his wage.
Chelsea will no doubt be active in the transfer window, but if they do things right, there should be at least two quality signings that are guaranteed.