The end of the 2016/17 season is likely to be a successful one on the trophy front for Chelsea, but it could also bear witness to John Terry’s Stamford Bridge farewell tour. The defender’s contract is set to expire at the end of the season, and with no renewal currently in sight, it appears as though the writing is on the wall.
It is certainly fitting that the Blues have regained their mojo ahead of Terry’s inevitable departure, with the 36-year-old often being the standard bearer for consistent, pragmatic performances in a Chelsea shirt – having led his side to countless victories and trophies during his illustrious career at Stamford Bridge.
There is, then, good reason for concern at Chelsea, with next season likely to become the first year in Chelsea’s era of dominance not to include a player wearing the number 26. Terry has overseen a period of great success at Stamford Bridge, and so the thought of him not being around must certainly be a daunting prospect for Antonio Conte. Luckily for him, though, there are a host of players waiting to step up.
In fact, Conte need not worry about the future of his defence, with a plethora of young talent ready to take up the mantle that will be left behind by Terry. Conte is seemingly aware of one such player, given that he made the decision to cancel his loan spell at Bournemouth early: Nathan Ake. He came to Chelsea whilst still a teenager, officially joining the youth setup in 2011, and since then Ake has slowly risen through the ranks at Stamford Bridge.
Whilst he hasn’t been a regular since returning, Ake proved during a spell with Bournemouth that he is more than ready to perform in the Premier League, with a few stunning performances towards the end of 2016 the eventual precursor to Conte’s cancellation of his loan. Able to play on the flanks or in the middle, Ake is the perfect squad player for Conte’s new-look Chelsea.
There is also the prospect of Andreas Christensen returning to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season. Yet to be given a chance in the first team, the Danish defender has spent the last two years on loan with Borussia Monchengladbach to great success, with Christensen carving out a remarkable career for himself in Germany. A regular in domestic and continental competition, he is more than ready to return.
It also mustn’t be forgotten that Kurt Zouma is still available. He was playing regularly at Stamford Bridge before a long-term injury ruled him out for close to a year, but he is now fighting fit once again. Crucially, he has had the opportunity to play alongside Terry for the last few years, and that will surely help his career no end. In many ways he is the perfect player to take up the mantle left behind by the surely-departing club captain, with his charismatic leadership at the back eerily reminiscent of Chelsea’s leader as a youngster.
Certainly, the departure of Terry – if it happens this summer – is going to be a tough hurdle to manoeuvre for Antonio Conte. He has been the one constant at Stamford Bridge over the last few years, and he will be hard to replace. However, within Chelsea’s ranks there are a host of youngsters that are more than ready to step up and look to replace him – and Conte must look to utilise them going forward.