Following a season where their place on top of the Premier League table was never really in doubt, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will look to freshen up his squad this summer and make a major assault on the Champions League next season.
With the likelihood of a star name or two joining the Stamford Bridge outfit ahead of next season, competition for places in the starting XI looks set to be as tough as ever.
For a number of young players, the decision over whether to stay in West London and fight for a place or go out on loan and guarantee regular first-team football is a tough one.
For Kurt Zouma, who looks to have all the hallmarks of a top-class player, it remains to be seen what his best option is for 2015-16. There is no doubting that at his current trajectory, the former St Etienne centre-half will be one of the names in line to replace John Terry at Chelsea in the long run.
However, with the club captain still going strong and Gary Cahill thriving as his defensive partner, Zouma is in no way guaranteed regular action.
The versatile Frenchman has been deployed in midfield on occasions this term, but competition for places in the boiler room is arguably even more competitive than at the back, while his natural role is as a centre-half.
With the 20-year-old only starting seven Premier League games this season, should the star man be kept at the Bridge or sent out on loan next term?
There is no doubting that Zouma’s unique attributes offer Mourinho something different and suit certain scenarios.
With the Frenchman having more speed than Cahill, Mourinho has looked to partner the youngster with Terry on occasion to thwart sprightly opposition attacks, while he has also been used as an enforcer in midfield against possession-focussed teams.
As Terry turns 35 this year and will naturally not be able to play as many games, Zouma’s outings would surely increase next term if he stayed at Chelsea.
With the long term in mind, Mourinho will want to continue to integrate the promising youngster into the Blues’ first team and give him more experience of English football.
Despite the fact that Zouma could well be a mainstay in the Chelsea side for the next decade, in the immediate future he is not guaranteed a place in the team week-in, week-out.
The Frenchman has put in some excellent performances this season but must build on this with regular action and building up his time on the pitch.
Sending Zouma out on loan may well weaken the first-team’s central defensive options in the short term, but thinking about the future it could be a shrewd move.
Allowing the defender the chance to play regularly in a Champions League-qualified team from Italy, Spain or France could see the defender return to Stamford Bridge in a year’s time closer to the finished article – and ready to take over from Terry.