Will Chelsea's New-Look Midfield Be the End for Ramires as a First-Team Regular?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2014

Chelsea's Ramires adjusts his socks after a foul left him on the ground during their English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England, Monday Feb. 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

As pre-season continues to develop, so too does Jose Mourinho's Chelsea team.

A number of youth players have made an impression in the Blues' earlier games, and now as some of the World Cup stars have trickled back—joining up with new signings Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis—the past few days have seen the intensity increased a notch.

Even Didier Drogba has returned to the club.

Step by step, Chelsea are building for 2014/15, and it's looking promising.

For Ramires, though, it's probably a disconcerting period.

Where does the Brazilian sit in Jose Mourinho's plans now?

It was only last month when Mourinho was forced to reject rumours that his midfielder may join Real Madrid this summer.

The Champions League winners had been linked with a bid for Ramires shortly before the start of the World Cup, although the Daily Mail's Simon Jones reported Mourinho would rebuff any move for him.

That was then, this is now, and since Mourinho outlined his desire to retain Ramires, things have changed.

Indeed, while Ramires is enjoying his holiday in the aftermath of Brazil's World Cup debacle, he is quickly falling down the Stamford Bridge pecking order.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Real have signed the considerable talents of James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos—realistically ending any possibility they may return to sign him—with the likes of Lewis Baker, Izzy Brown, Marco van Ginkel and Oriol Romeu giving Chelsea more options in midfield themselves.

Add to it the fact Chelsea have Fabregas among their number, and suddenly Ramires is looking less and less like a Chelsea regular.

Mourinho has retained his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation during pre-season, deploying Nemanja Matic, Van Ginkel, Romeu and Baker in the pivot.

All four are talented players, bringing their own qualities.

Baker has a look of a modern Frank Lampard about him, while Van Ginkel himself is beginning to show what Chelsea missed last term when he was on the treatment table.

The pair complement the more defensive-minded Matic and Romeu.

HIGH WYCOMBE, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Lewis Baker of Chelsea in action duing the pre season friendly match between Wycombe Wanderers and Chelsea at Adams Park on July 16, 2014 in High Wycombe, England.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

It's Baker who is the wild card, though. The youngster is developing into quite the player, and given Ramires' disappointing 2013/14 campaign, it's the 19-year-old who is the biggest threat to his place in the team.

Throughout pre-season, although he has played further forward at times, Baker has been influential in much of what Chelsea have produced.

He's been doing the job Ramires has struggled to do, demonstrating excellent vision and passing ability to create chances. Against AFC Wimbledon, he picked up all three assists in Chelsea's comeback from 2-0 down.

Baker is knocking on the door, and his progress gives Chelsea an opportunity to balance the books by offloading a well-paid senior player, giving a promising youngster a chance in his place.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 26: Cesc Fabregas of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta de Vigo at Camp Nou on March 26, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It's been a long-term goal for the club to promote from within, and Mourinho is showing signs he may well do that this season.

There is also the issue of Fabregas.

Mourinho has brought the Spaniard back to the Premier League with a clear plan in mind. Given he is yet to feature, his intentions remain unclear, but if it means Fabregas playing a deeper role with the aim of starting attacks quicker from the back, it's difficult to see Ramires challenging him.

Alternatively, should Mourinho switch to a 4-3-3 in order to accommodate Fabregas' talents, Ramires' position becomes even less clear.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Koke of Club Atletico de Madrid is tackled by Ramires of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match between Chelsea and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stamford Bridge on April 30, 2014 in London, England.
Clive Rose/Getty Images

That could lead to a midfield three of Oscar, Matic and Fabregas as first choice, with Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Willian or Andre Schurrle completing the attacking options.

Ramires doesn't fit into that nor is he talented enough to be deemed a first-choice in Chelsea's existing setup, where the aforementioned attacking midfielders rightfully rule the roost.

We see it often that, as teams adapt and evolve, there are casualties—those players who are necessary victims of change. When he returns after World Cup duty, Ramires may well find he is one of them at Stamford Bridge.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes