Chelsea have confirmed they will appeal against a ban from registering players for two transfer windows, but it leaves a number of stars with uncertain futures.
Eden Hazard’s contract situation, with the forward’s deal set to expire at the end of next season, could become particularly problematic for the Blues if they cannot replace the Belgium international in the market.
Callum Hudson-Odoi has also been targeted by Bayern Munich while loaned players including Mateo Kovacic, Gonzalo Higuain and Alvaro Morata will wonder what the ban means for them, although it could be reduced on appeal.
Here, we assess key Chelsea figures to examine how their transfer strategy could be affected over the next year.
The obvious place to start is with Hazard. The winger has made no secret of his desire to play for Real Madrid, but the emergence of Vinicius Junior at the Santiago Bernabeu may mean Los Blancos do not feel they need Hazard.
With Hazard heading towards the last year of his Chelsea contract, Maurizio Sarri has indicated the issue needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, but the transfer ban will complicate matters. And if Gareth Bale leaves Madrid, Neymar would likely be a top target with Hazard an alternative.
A parallel for the Hazard situation could be seen at Atletico Madrid, whose star player Antoine Griezmann signed a bumper new contract rather than trying to force a move elsewhere during their transfer ban. Might Hazard be persuaded to do the same?
— Eden Hazard (@hazardeden10) September 28, 2018
Bayern have made it clear they will resume their chase for Hudson-Odoi at the end of the season, when – like Hazard – the youngster will also only have 12 months left on his deal.
Sarri claims Hudson-Odoi is playing more than any other Premier League teenager, but the forward appears impatient to kickstart his development in a similar manner to Jadon Sancho, who became one of world football’s hottest prospects after leaving Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund.
Bundesliga giants Bayern – who need long-term replacements for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery – will likely return with bids for Hudson-Odoi when the transfer window reopens, but regardless of how large the fee on offer gets, Chelsea may prefer to keep Hudson-Odoi and risk losing him for nothing in 2020.
Higuain’s future seems tied to Sarri and, if the Blues boss were to lose his job, it is hard to imagine Chelsea pursuing a permanent deal for the Juventus striker at the end of the season regardless of the transfer ban.
The Argentina hitman is seemingly not required in Turin after the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo and Juve will want to cash in on the 31-year-old while they can. If Chelsea cannot buy the striker, someone else surely will be tempted by his prolific record.
— Gonzalo Higuaín (@G_Higuain) January 25, 2019
Morata fell out of favour under Sarri but may yet have a future at Stamford Bridge under a different manager. If Chelsea cannot sign a striker until the end of the 2019-20 season, Morata may once more become an option for the Blues.
Atletico Madrid signed Morata, a boyhood supporter of the club, on an 18-month loan but it is possible both teams could agree to cut the deal short.
Kovacic has spoken warmly of a possible permanent move to Chelsea and a transfer for the Croatia international seemed likely. Real Madrid may be unwilling to allow Kovacic to leave on loan for another season, though, which might mean he has to find a new club for 2019-20.
Should Kovacic leave, opportunities may become more regular for another of Chelsea’s talented crop of young players. Loftus-Cheek has seen his progress halted by back problems but, fitness permitting, the England midfielder is an obvious contender to benefit from a transfer ban.
— Ruben Loftus-Cheek (@rubey_lcheek) February 21, 2019
As Pulisic’s move from Borussia Dortmund was announced in January, it is not expected the American’s switch to Stamford Bridge will be affected by Chelsea’s ban. Should Hazard be sold, Pulisic is an obvious replacement as he can play in a wide range of attacking positions.
Sarri is reportedly on the brink of the sack and another heavy defeat at the hands of Manchester City in Sunday’s EFL Cup final would put him under even more pressure to justify tactics including the use of N’Golo Kante as a box-to-box midfielder.
But new managers typically want to sign players. Who would take a job knowing they have to work with an unbalanced squad, with a star player who has hinted that he wants to leave? Sarri could therefore be given more time to work with his players – exactly what the coach craves.
However, one of the leading contenders to replace Sarri, Zinedine Zidane, has worked under a transfer embargo at Real Madrid.
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