With John Terry having announced his decision to leave Chelsea at the end of the season, Antonio Conte has a sizeable void to fill at the club.
On the field, Chelsea have already prepared for Terry’s absence as the 700+ gamer has contributed just 376 minutes of playing time to their Premier League campaign, one that will offer the former England international the perfect send-off.
However, John Terry is a leader and icon at the club, and his absence will force the likes of Gary Cahill to assume leadership responsibilities both on and off the pitch.
If Conte decides to continue with his highly successful back three system next season, then Chelsea will need a range of covering options, especially with the addition of Champions League football.
Chelsea have already seen what Nathan Ake is capable of at Premier League level in his half-season loan spell with Bournemouth, while young Danish defender Andreas Christensen has featured in all but three of Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga fixtures whilst gaining invaluable Champions League experience out on loan.
22-year-old Frenchman Kurt Zouma is a huge prospect for Chelsea, one that they can rely on after solid showings in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns, but his ACL injury from last year has halted his progress and kept him to just seven league appearances this term.
Those three names will all be in the hunt to make Conte’s squad next term, but one must wonder how realistic their chances are when considering the spending power of the club. Perhaps The Blues don’t need to dive into the deep pockets of Roman Abramovich to be competitive in Europe next season, but that hasn’t stopped them from being linked to several high-profile players.
Leading that list currently is Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte, a 22-year-old Frenchman with 141 games under his belt in the Spanish top flight and experience in Europe in the Champions and Europa League.
Laporte caught the eye of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in the summer, understandably considering his quality in bringing the ball out from the back, but turned down the offer before signing a new deal for Athletic with a release clause of €65 million (£54 million).
If Chelsea were to active Laporte’s release clause, the transfer would register as the biggest signing in the history of the club after Fernando Torres’ £50 million move from Liverpool in 2011.