What Does the Future Hold for Gary Cahill at Chelsea?

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2016

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31:  Gary Cahill of Chelsea during the Emirates FA Cup match between MK Dons and Chelsea at Stadium mk on January 31, 2016 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Bad news for John Terry is good news for Gary Cahill. Bad news for Kurt Zouma is also good news for Gary Cahill.

The announcement that Terry will not be having his Chelsea contract extended for next season has reinforced Cahill's position with the Blues. News that Zouma is expected to be on the treatment table for six months after damaging knee ligaments against Manchester United on Sunday, even more so.

It's been a tough couple of weeks for Chelsea defenders, but Cahill has come out of it looking stronger than anyone else at Stamford Bridge.

How the perspective has changed. Before all this, we were being told that Cahill was fearing for his Chelsea future. Restricted to mainly substitute appearances under Guus Hiddink, it was reported in the Daily Telegraph that the Englishman was considering a move away from Stamford Bridge.

With Euro 2016 on the horizon, Cahill didn't want to spend the remainder of the current campaign on the bench, losing his place in Roy Hodgson's plans. At 30, he was probably also worrying about the prospect of spending the best years that remain of his career not playing football.

Not long ago, he signed a new four-year contract with Chelsea, but that desire to play was becoming paramount.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JANUARY 31:  John Terry (r) and Gary Cahill of Chelsea look on during The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Milton Keynes Dons and Chelsea at Stadium mk on January 31, 2016 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Pete Norto
Pete Norton/Getty Images

With only new recruit Matt Miazga available to compete with Terry and Cahill now until the end of the season, that fear has dissipated somewhat.

It's a massive shame that Zouma's season must end the way it has. The Frenchman has been a class act for Chelsea, growing into a fine defender.

Indeed, when the signs were there of Chelsea's implosion earlier this season, Zouma was one of the few players to escape free of criticism.

Cahill wouldn't have wished injury on his teammate. Far from it. Knowing the defender as one of the most affable and considerate footballers you'll meet, Cahill's reaction to the replays of Zouma's knee buckling the way it did on Sunday would have made him wince just like every football fan of sound mind.

Cahill will be full of regret for his colleague, knowing the pain and stress Zouma will have to suffer on his road to recovery.

But make the most of this opportunity, Cahill must. Now he is well-placed to not only remind Hodgson of his qualities for the European Championships, but also build a case to be the No. 1 centre-back under Chelsea's next manager.

Alastair Grant/Associated Press

We know Hiddink will be departing his interim role this summer, and now that Terry is following him out of Stamford Bridge—although we can expect his contract situation to have a few twists and turns yet—Cahill is perfectly placed.

Every new manager craves an element of structure to be in place already when he takes over a club. When that club is Chelsea—with all the sense of expectation and chaos that surrounds the Blues—that is required even more so.

The club is going through a massive period of change right now. Sacking Jose Mourinho and allowing Terry to leave, Chelsea have well and truly set their stall out to move on from the successes of yesteryear. That old model has gone, and now it's about the future, building a team that can continue to deliver the silverware that Roman Abramovich craves.

Having to rebuild a defence from scratch will not be ideal—just ask David Moyes, who was tasked with that at Manchester United—which is why any new manager at Stamford Bridge will be looking closely at Cahill.

Whomever Chelsea appoint, he'll know he needs a leader at the back. He needs a solid foundation he can trust so the focus can shift to building Chelsea's attacking threat to get the team playing the sort of football they haven't been capable of this season.

It's normally been Terry who has provided that platform for successive managers, so between now and May, Cahill's performances must show he can be that man.

Ariel Schalit/Associated Press

He has time on his side—Cahill's not long turned 30—and comes with a wealth of experience, winning every major honour in the club game since joining the Blues in 2012.

Cahill's been at Chelsea long enough to understand the club's traditions, too. Added to that, he is a rare commodity in west London. Cahill's English, and when Terry leaves, that'll leave the club with just two indigenous first-team players—Ruben Loftus-Cheek being the other.

When we put it all together, we have to ask ourselves if we're looking at Chelsea's next captain. Well, are we? You wouldn't bet against it.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.


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