With Chelsea’s quest for silverware coming up just short in the 2013/14 season, Jose Mourinho will be looking to improve his squad ahead of the upcoming campaign to once again make his mark on the English game.
In order for a club to bring players in, there has to be outs, and below we look at some big-name stars who could be on their way to the Stamford Bridge exit door.
A loyal servant to the Blues, midfielder Frank Lampard has likely played his last game for Chelsea.
The 35-year-old is out of contract in, and he was reportedly told that his deal will not be extended due to being surplus to the club’s requirements, per Rob Draper of Mail Online.
Lampard signed for Chelsea back in 2001 and has enjoyed ample success with the club since then. His 211 goals make him the Blues’ all-time highest goalscorer, and he’s won just about every honour on offer during his time at Stamford Bridge.
The former West Ham star made 26 appearances in this season’s Premier League, per WhoScored.com, scoring six goals and assisting three more in a campaign that suggested that retirement was just around the corner.
Ending his 13-year association with the club will spark endless emotion from the Chelsea faithful, but his timing looks just about right.
With 25-year-old Serbian Nemanja Matic the first-choice holding midfielder and Lampard unable to adopt the attacking role that made him such a legend, moving on may be the right decision rather than spending what's left of his playing career warming a substitutes’ bench.
It’s unlikely that Lampard’s future will be decided before the end of the World Cup, but heading to the States looks well and truly on the cards for the midfielder.
Another Englishman part of the Stamford Bridge exodus is left-back Ashley Cole, who found chances few and far between last season.
The 33-year-old made just 17 Premier League appearances in the 2013/14 campaign according to WhoScored.com, with young Spaniard Cesar Azpilicueta coming of age and making the left-back position his own.
His lack of first-team action cost him his place in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad with England, and he revealed via Twitter that he is now looking to move on, per BBC Sport:
I am weighing up my options for playing next season with my agent. Sadly, it does not look like Chelsea will be one of them. Now I'll be looking for another journey in my life. I hope it can be like my others, full of fun and of course win something. Thank you Chelsea for making my eight years a pleasure. We've been through a lot, good and bad.
The “good” saw Cole win the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League and Europa League during his time in blue, but with regular football now unavailable at Stamford Bridge, it’s time for him to move on.
Not that he can’t still cut it at the highest level; Cole is one of the greatest Premier League left-backs of all time and has years of service left in him—a sentiment echoed by Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen, per BBC Sport:
“As a full-back for Arsenal, Chelsea and England there is nobody better in Premier League history.”
Whichever team manages to secure Cole’s services will have gained an outstanding professional, and such has been his contribution to the Chelsea cause over the years, that he'll be met with respect and gratitude when he likely returns to Stamford Bridge as the opposition.
Much was said about the quality of Chelsea’s front line last season, with Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba's lack of goals contributing to the Blues’ title challenge petering out.
However, one striker who is unlikely to be frustrating the Stamford Bridge crowd next season is Cameroon international Eto’o, who has expressed his desire to leave the club to prove Mourinho wrong according to John Cross of the Mirror.
Cross writes that the 33-year-old was left enraged by Mourinho’s comments questioning his age and is on his way out of the club for whom he scored just 9 goals during a disappointing campaign, per WhoScored.com.
Despite failing to prove his worth to Mourinho’s cause in England, Eto’o lashed out at the Portuguese manager and said that his career is far from over in an interview with the Confederation of African Football website, as reported by The Guardian:
Contrary to what a puppet says about my age, I am still physically fit. At 33, I feel real good. I have proven that I could do better than youths. And I wish to also say that I am not going to the United States or to the Middle East. I will continue at the top level. I will continue to play the Champions League. My romance with this competition is far from over. I will not tell you where, but I will be at the top level.
With Arsenal linked with the striker, who will represent Cameroon in the 2014 World Cup, a short hop across the city may be on the cards heading toward the 2014/15 campaign.
However, his performances will require drastic improvement if they’re to prove Mourinho wrong, who, let’s face it, doesn’t often call it incorrectly.
Losing three players in the winter of their careers won’t see Chelsea suddenly slip from being title contenders to also-rans, but Mourinho must make some intelligent signings if the Blues are to be in contention for domestic and European glory next season.
With Diego Costa’s arrival imminent and a whole host of other European talent linked with a move to the Bridge, you’d be brave to bet against Mourinho once again masterminding a fruitful campaign with the Blues.