Chelsea stars face clear-out threat to end era of player power
Chelsea owners understood to be prepared to move on under-performing players – and are ready to stand by the under pressure Graham Potter
Chelsea’s underperforming stars are facing a fight for their futures with the club’s owners planning to overhaul the squad and end the era of player power at Stamford Bridge.
While previous owner Roman Abramovich repeatedly backed Chelsea’s players over his managers, the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership are desperate for head coach Graham Potter to turn around the alarming slump and succeed.
Telegraph Sport has been told that the possibility of sacking head coach Potter has not even been discussed internally ahead of Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace, but it is understood Chelsea will consider a squad clear-out if results and performances do not dramatically improve.
Such a move would be backed by the fans who waited for Potter outside Craven Cottage after the latest defeat to Fulham and shouted ‘Don’t give up, keep the faith. Change the squad, they’re the problem’.
Any overhaul could include signing Joao Felix permanently at the end of the season if the forward builds on his highly encouraging display before being sent-off against Fulham, while there is also interest this month in Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram and PSV Eindhoven winger Noni Madueke.
Ziyech, Pulisic and Havertz face uncertain futures
There is no option or obligation for Chelsea to buy Felix in his loan agreement until the end of the season, but the club are confident they will be able to sign him permanently from Atlético Madrid should they wish to.
Just as important as new signings will be player sales, but Chelsea’s biggest issue will be finding buyers and interested clubs for the highly-paid stars they are willing to sell and loan out.
Expensive signings such as Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz are facing uncertain futures, while, as revealed this week by Telegraph Sport, Jorginho may be allowed to leave when his contract expires and interest in captain Cesar Azpilicueta could be considered.
There is also the possibility of Chelsea cutting their losses on defender Kalidou Koulibaly if an offer arrives from Italy, while the club are unlikely to stand in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s way if he decides he wants to return to Spain or move elsewhere.
Chelsea owners looking to reduce wage bill
The Boehly-Clearlake owners have been trying to rebalance Chelsea’s wage bill since taking over the club and that will continue as more new players arrive and others depart.
Ideally, Chelsea want a first-team dressing-room of players who are all on similar basic wages with the possibility of earning lucrative bonuses for meeting personal and team goals.
Chelsea have been open to offers for Ziyech this month, but the club’s enormous injury list means that Potter cannot afford to lose too many players and is likely to delay the bulk of an attempted clear-out until the summer.
That gives players such as Havertz and Pulisic, whose injury ruled out any prospect of a January move, time to try to prove they are worth keeping, but the impending arrival of forward Christopher Nkunku and the loan signing of Felix have placed big question marks against their futures.
While Chelsea are optimistic of agreeing new contracts with N’Golo Kanté and Mason Mount, both of whom they want to keep, there has been no significant progress on a new deal for Jorginho amid a feeling he is more likely to leave the club than stay.
The likelihood is currently that Jorginho will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season, although Chelsea might entertain bids this month if they are successful in their pursuit of a new midfielder.
Fernández and Caicedo remain transfer targets
Chelsea have not ruled out making a second bid for Benfica’s Enzo Fernández, while Brighton & Hove Albion’s Moises Caicedo remains on the club’s radar this month.
Azpilicueta turned down strong interest from Barcelona to sign a new two-year contract last summer, but Chelsea are unlikely to stand in the 33-year-old’s way again if he receives another offer at the end of this season.
Despite only moving to Chelsea at the end of the last transfer window, Aubameyang is already thought to be concerned over his place in the squad, having been relegated to the substitutes’ bench.
Clubs in Spain, including Barcelona and Atlético Madrid, have already expressed an interest in signing him at the end of the season, while he would be able to move to America’s MLS or the Middle East this month, either on loan or permanently.
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