The last time Chelsea were reigning Premier League champions, they made an absolute mess of the summer transfer window.
Antonio Conte will be desperate to avoid his predecessor’s mistakes should the Blues lift the English crown as expected this term, especially considering his 3-4-3 setup still includes a few square pegs in round holes.
But rather than acquiring exotic unknowns from abroad, would the Blues be better off bringing some former chargers back to the club? There’s certainly a wealth to choose from, considering the number of players who’ve been caught up in Chelsea’s globe-spanning loan operation in recent years, so we asked Blues fans earlier this week to vote for which former stars they’d like to see Conte re-sign this summer.
The results of our exclusive poll are now in, so here’s a rundown of the top three…
A two-time Player of the Year who was begrudgingly forced out of Stamford Bridge, ironically by Jose Mourinho, Chelsea fans understandably still have a soft spot for Juan Mata.
The Spaniard lifted Champions League and Europa League titles with the Blues and has continued to show his quality at Old Trafford, despite not always being a permanent fixture in Mourinho’s starting line up, with 35 goals and a similar tally of assists since signing for the Red Devils in January 2014.
Perhaps linked to the uncertainty over his future at Everton, Romelu Lukaku ranked second in our poll. The Belgian striker failed to net a single goal during his three years at Chelsea but now boasts 79 strikes in the Premier League – a phenomenal return for a 23-year-old who is still a little short of being the finished article.
He’s currently joint-top of the Premier League’s scoring charts alongside Harry Kane, with 19, and is well on course to claim a personal-best haul this season, just five shy of the 25 goals he mustered up across all competitions in 2015/16.
Another young player who simply wasn’t given the right assurances by Jose Mourinho, it must kill Chelsea fans to watch Kevin De Bruyne consistently produce the goods for divisional rivals Manchester City.
That being said, the Belgium international has come off the boil over the last weeks, failing to score or assist since the beginning of February. Nonetheless, De Bruyne remains one of the best midfielders in the world, capable of playing in a variety of roles across the engine room, finding the net from long range or creating copious opportunities for his team-mates.
World-class technical ability underpins the 25-year-old’s other assets and suggests a long future at the very top of the game.