Although Eden Hazard, according to reports, will only leave Chelsea for Real Madrid this summer, there remains the distinct possibility that the Belgium international will not be a Blues player in 2016/17. After all, Los Blancos have been heavily linked with the player of late and are one of the few sides able to bankroll a deal for the reigning PFA Player of the Year and this news may be an attempt from the player’s camp to flutter their eyelashes at the Spaniards.
So, Chelsea would be wise to plot for life after their current attacking midfield star – albeit his performances haven’t been noteworthy this term – and, luckily for them, there are plenty of options within the Premier League and from across Europe that could slot into whomever is managing the club next season’s plans.
With this in mind, here are FIVE options to replace Hazard…
Already mooted as a direct replacement for Hazard, Griezmann appears ideally suited. The Frenchman is able to play on either flank, as a ‘No.10’ or even as a centre-forward, and has demonstrated all the abilities associated with world-class attacking midfielders since his move to Atletico Madrid in 2014, maturing from being a talented winger with Real Sociedad into a player feared across Europe.
In terms of being ‘like-for-like’, Griezmann could sot straight in for Hazard on the left side of an attacking midfield three, and his talent suggests that the transition between La Liga and the Premier League should be relatively seamless. A problem, however, may be a potential lack of Champions League football at Stamford Bridge, albeit a lucrative contract could sway him.
Linked with the biggest clubs in Europe for some time, had his 2014 not been interrupted by injury – which ruled him out of Germany’s World Cup triumph – there’s every chance Reus would have left Dortmund by now. Like Griezmann, the 26-year-old is comfortable in any of the four main attacking positions, where his pace, technique and intelligence come in to play.
Having worked under Jurgen Klopp and been schooled in his ‘gegenpressing’ philosophy, Reus appears to be well-suited to the physical, fast-paced nature of English football, and could slot into Chelsea’s next manager’s plans relatively easily.
Chelsea do still own Cuadrado, by the way. The Colombian arrived to a great fanfare in January 2015, but after just a handful of admittedly underwhelming performances, he was shipped off on loan to Juventus for the current season. Reports indicate that the Old Lady are keen to retain the speedy winger’s services, but the chance to work under a new manager back in London may appeal to the 27-year-old, whose flair-filled approach was clearly not in tune with Jose Mourinho’s ‘discipline first’ tactics.
Cuadrado’s stock was so high during his Firoentina days that there simply has to be a good player kicking and screaming below the surface, and it may just take the right coach to revive his dented confidence and perhaps save Chelsea upwards of £40m.
Even though the Frenchman just signed a new contract at West Ham, there’s no reason that he could not be lured away by the promise of an even bigger salary and the kudos that comes with playing for an ‘elite’ side. Okay, the Hammers are more likely to be in Europe than Chelsea next term, but attention from the French set-up is liable to be piqued more by goings on at Stamford Bridge than the Olympic Stadium, which may help Payet to re-enter the Les Bleus ranks – he’s not made the squad since mid-2015.
Chelsea were reportedly interested in Payet prior to his latest West Ham deal, so there’s every chance that they remain keen on the 28-year-old, who has been a huge hit since his move from Marseille to the east of London.
Somewhat of a gamble, Sane at 19 is untested at the highest level. After making his debut last season, 2015/16 has been the teenager’s breakthrough campaign, and his performances have, naturally, attracted widespread attention due to his tender age.
A winger with pace and skill, the one-cap Germany international looks destined for a glittering career, although Chelsea’s reported interest in him may have come a bit soon, with the general feeling being that players of his age need game time in a settled environment to progress. Alas, if the Blues gamble they may have a real gem on their hands should he be able to make the transition.