Slowly but surely, Cesc Fabregas is on his way out of Chelsea.
The veteran midfielder has already had his emotional send-off with his move to Monaco seemingly a done deal, but the Blues will only let him leave once they find a suitable replacement.
Two players have been sounded out by Maurizio Sarri; Argentinian playmaker Leandro Paredes, who currently plays for Zenit Saint Petersburg, and Nicolo Barella, the highly rated Cagliari midfielder who’s been dubbed ‘The Sardinian Steven Gerrard’.
Neither player will come cheap, of course.
For example, Barella could cost around £45million according to sources in Italy, and that’s a lot to pay for someone who won’t necessarily be a first-team regular.
As it stands, Sarri’s preferred midfield three at Chelsea consists of N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Ross Barkley, with the on-loan Mateo Kovacic and youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek also knocking on the door.
If you were Paredes or Barella, would you really want to jump into that boiling pot of midfield talent?
That’s got us thinking, do Chelsea even really need to fork out for a Cesc-sized replacement?
After all, the Blues have all sorts of midfielders on their books at the moment, ranging from the brilliant teenager Mason Mount through to Tiemoue Bakayoko. The problem is, they’re all out on loan.
In Mount, Chelsea have a genuine talent who’s already impressed enough at Derby this season to warrant an England call-up, as the 19-year-old sat on the bench for the Three Lions in the games against Croatia and Spain in October.
The same could be said for Lewis Baker, who’s featured only once for the Blues’ senior team and has been on-loan with five different clubs – most recently Leeds.
Of course, Baker’s days as a Chelsea-star-of-the-future could well be over, as the 23-year-old suffered an underwhelming spell at Elland Road and saw his loan cut-short earlier this week.
That experience has likely hindered his progression.
If Chelsea do end up signing one of Paredes or Barella this month (or both?), the likes of Mount and Baker might feel seriously hard done by by the time they return to their parent club at the end of the season.
Many fans already believe the pair are good enough to at least warrant the same kind of game-time that Fabregas has been given this season, but they’ll likely struggle to nail-down a regular starting place in the team.
In recent times, the Blues have been critisied for overlooking their youngsters, and it’s starting to bite them back.
The current transfer-saga surrounding Callum Hudson-Odoi has only come about because the highly-talented 18-year-old has been struggling to get a game ahead of Pedro and Willian.
If CHO manages to force a move to Bayern Munich this month, then he might pave the way for other frustrated Chelsea youngsters to seek their fortune elsewhere.
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