There is a sense that Chelsea may be on the brink of an exciting new chapter in the club's history following the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
With Ashley Cole released, per BBC Sport, and Frank Lampard set to move to New York City FC, per Charles Reynolds of The Independent, the Blues will be without two iconic figures for next season. Now it’ll be up to Jose Mourinho to replace them.
Luckily, Chelsea do have a host of exciting young talent on their books, while the links with some of European football’s most rapidly improving players will also provide reassurance to those of a blue persuasion who may be naturally concerned after the departure of two club legends.
It’s vital that Mourinho gets it right in the transfer market, though. After a first season back at the club in which Chelsea failed to pick up any silverware, you can bet the Portuguese boss will be under pressure to deliver something tangible in his second year in charge.
Here’s the very latest on three players who could be set to lead the trophy charge for the Blues next season:
The 21-year-old centre-forward has expressed his desire to remain at Chelsea—who he has called the “biggest club in England”—amid reports he could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku has impressed in consecutive season-long loan spells away from Chelsea with West Brom and Everton, but despite a glut of goals, Mourinho still remains unsure on the player, per Andy Hunter of The Guardian.
Speaking ahead of the World Cup, the Belgian international insisted he’s resigned to waiting until after the Brazil showpiece to decide his future, although he’s hoping it’ll be at Chelsea, per Het Nieuwsblad (h/t Sky Sports):
It would be nice to get clarity beforehand, but that will not happen, so I'm completely focused on the World Cup.
You know, I still have a two-year contract at the biggest club in England, because that's Chelsea. So I still hope to play there. Chelsea have a good coach.
I have been working hard on my game over the past few months and everything seems to be coming out now.
The striker has transferred his fine domestic form onto the international stage, netting four times in Belgium’s two warm-up games against Luxembourg and Sweden. And you suspect the manner in which he performs at the World Cup will go a long way to determining where his future lies.
As OptaJean indicates here, the forward is in wonderful form for the Red Devils:
6 - Romelu Lukaku has scored six goals in his last five starts for Belgium. Devil.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 2, 2014
If he tears it up in Brazil, Chelsea would be able to command a huge fee for the player, should they choose to sell. But with forward options something of a premium at Stamford Bridge, it does beg the question as to why Mourinho won’t give Lukaku a chance. Perhaps the forward's performances this summer can convince him otherwise.
The Real Madrid defender has claimed he is not thinking about reported interest from Chelsea ahead of the World Cup.
The 21-year-old’s 2013-14 season was punctured by injury problems, but he returned to the starting XI for the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, which saw Real claim their 10th European crown.
Varane had reportedly been lined up by the Blues as a replacement for David Luiz, who looks on the brink of joining Paris Saint-Germain, per John Cross of The Mirror. But the Frenchman, who is set to start at the heart of Les Bleus’ defence in Brazil, was coy when pressed on a move to London.
“I’m not thinking about interest from Chelsea right now,” he told Marca. “There’s a World Cup to prepare for; now’s not the time to dwell on that sort of stuff.”
While Chelsea boasted the best defensive record in the Premier League last season, Varane would certainly be a wonderful addition should Mourinho manage to construct a deal. The Portuguese boss knows the player well from their time together at Real Madrid, and Varane would bring a marriage of class and clout to the Chelsea defence.
Here's a taster of what Blues fans could expect should Varane sign up:
Whether Madrid would sell remains a doubt, though. Varane has showcased plenty of times that he is capable of performing up to the required standard with the European champions, and should he be sold this summer, Carlo Ancelotti would only have two orthodox central defenders remaining in Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Subsequently, it's unlikely they’ll be willing to let this prodigious young centre-back walk away.
If Chelsea want to bring Roma defender Benatia to Stamford Bridge, then they’re going to have to stump up big, big money. That’s according to the Giallorossi’s sporting director, Walter Sabatini, who has insisted any club looking to take the Moroccan off their hands would have to pay an enormous €61 million, per Marca:
Benatia is not for sale. If his agent wants to speculate on a price for him, then any clubs who are interested should consider him to be worth €61 million. If someone were to offer that amount, then I don't think I could guarantee that he would stay 100%.
Chelsea have been linked with a move for the centre-back, who has enjoyed a phenomenal season with the capital club.
WhoScored.com provides an emphatic indicator as to how impressive the Moroccan has been as of late:
Mehdi Benatia: Characteristics - strengths, weaknesses, style of play pic.twitter.com/1ptLXYZT3j— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 30, 2014
According to Anthony Chapman of The Express, Chelsea were willing to offer £18 million plus Lukaku in an attempt to acquire Benatia, such is their high opinion of the player. But it is apparent that Roma may be looking for a little more than that.
Given the reported asking price—not to mention the quality of defenders Chelsea already have on their books—you suspect the Blues will turn their attentions elsewhere.