The coming transfer window looks set to be one of significant change at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea will welcome a new manager to the club during the off-season, which will almost certainly be Italy gaffer Antonio Conte, and new managers always mean new signings.
The Blues have already been linked with half of Serie A as the tabloids continue to speculate what Conte’s Chelsea manifestation might look like by the time the 2016/17 campaign officially starts in August.
As a consequence, however, room will have to be made in the Chelsea squad for new recruits – which can only mean a significant number of the west London outfit’s current stars are moved on.
Many would argue it’s time for a shake-up anyway, following the worst title defence in Premier League history under Jose Mourinho.
So with that in mind and the coming transfer window by no means as far away as it may seem, we’ve listed FIVE Chelsea stars Conte could axe during the summer.
Diego Costa is a top-class goalscorer and there aren’t too many of those about at the moment, especially ones boasting a record as proven as the Spain international’s – who has fired his last two clubs to domestic titles.
But a notoriously feisty character who has picked up 16 yellow cards and three retrospective bans in just 50 Premier League appearances, whilst suffering from recurring hamstring problems, a certain number of managers in world football would simply deem the 27-year-old not worth the hassle.
Antonio Conte could well fall into that category and the Blues already have a potential exit strategy, with former club Atletico Madrid making no secret of their desires to re-sign the 6 foot 2 frontman.
That could see Chelsea recoup most of their original £32million investment, but the club are unlikely to relinquish their most dependable goalscorer without a replacement secured beforehand.
Nemanja Matic’s slump in form has been almost as harrowing as Eden Hazard’s, with the Serbian somehow morphing from a midfield mountain into a tepid mouse since playing such an intrinsic role in Chelsea’s title bid last season.
There has been an apathetic element to the Serbian international’s shocking decline and some sources have suggested he’s already eyeing a summer transfer to revive his stuttering career.
At the same time, Antonio Conte is known to want his own choice of central midfielder for next season with Bayern Munich’s industrious box-to-box Arturo Vidal reportedly at the top of his shopping list.
Acquiring the Chile international, who he won three Serie A titles with at Juventus, could well be the final nail in the 27-year-old’s coffin.
It’s no secret that Chelsea are yet to renew John Terry’s contract – although the club have insisted he could still earn a new deal – and you wonder how much that has do with the plans of Antonio Conte.
The Blues skipper will be remembered as the greatest icon in the club’s history and many would argue his leadership skills and experience could prove vital in Conte’s efforts to smooth over a potentially tricky transition in west London.
But the Italian gaffer may feel Chelsea simply need to move on and the 35-year-old’s presence in the dressing room could well end up undermining his authority if results go pear-shaped a few months down the line.
Likewise, Juventus stalwart Leonardo Bonucci has already been mooted as a potential replacement for the Bosman-bound centre-half.
I’m still not convinced Pedro particularly enjoys life in west London and although the former Barcelona winger has recently discovered an uplift in form compared to his anonymous displays at the start of the season, he’s still not performing to the levels assumed when the Blues acquired him last summer.
Of course, the old adage of allowing a year to settle certainly applies, especially considering the 28-year-old had previously spent the entirety of his career at one club who play a very specific style of football.
But if Antonio Conte wishes to bring in his own attacking options this summer, room will have to be made in the Chelsea squad. The Blues are determined to hold onto Eden Hazard and Willian’s importance has steadily grown since his summer 2013 arrival, so logic suggests Pedro is the likeliest to be axed.
It might seem illogical to suggest Chelsea will obliterate their entire strike force (including the aforementioned Diego Costa) in a single transfer window, especially considering Antonio Conte always favoured two up front during his affluent Juventus spell.
But Loic Remy, Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato have hardly kicked a ball between them this season and the chances of Chelsea making the later duo’s loan stays permanent are practically non-existent.
Likewise, Remy is a talented striker but now 29 years of age, he surely won’t want to waste yet another season on the Chelsea bench when he could be playing regularly at a decent level.
The west London club are probably already planning to offload all three and I can’t see any reason Conte would try to convince them otherwise.