Chelsea have already sold or released 17 players this summer but Mauricio Pochettino is still aiming to cut down his squad, such is the bloated nature of the group he inherited. The Blues have overseen a major transformation with several key players departing this summer. They have raised over £230million in the process to ease their Financial Fair Play concerns. But Pochettino still believes there is work to be done to trim down the squad to its perfect size.
Largely thanks to Todd Boehly’s huge £600m spending spree, Chelsea had 33 players in their first-team squad last season. That number had been cut down significantly after an exodus, with Chelsea needing to hit the reset button after their worst Premier League finish for 29 years.
Pochettino took a backseat when the likes of Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz were sold, but the Argentinian would have been consulted in allowing the trio to depart. Then the Saudi clubs swooped for Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly, although Hakim Ziyech’s move fell through.
Other fringe players have departed, while loanees such as Ian Maatsen, Bashir Humphreys and Levi Colwill have returned to fight for their place in the Chelsea first-team. Pochettino now has a squad of 29, and after taking charge of four pre-season matches, he is somewhat wiser to which players he wants to keep.
There are at least seven players expected to head out the door to complete Chelsea’s firesale, with as many as four new faces set to arrive. Moises Caicedo, Axel Disasi, Lesley Ugochukwu and Dusan Vlahovic could all arrive, but the Chelsea boss will need to make room for the quartet, with Pochettino describing the situation as a “mess”.
Chelsea have been desperately trying to offload Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal after the £97.5m flop’s nightmare period back in west London. Inter Milan were locked in talks over a deal for the Belgian before he began discussing a move to Juventus, prompting the Nerazzurri to back out.
They could now entertain a swap deal that would see Lukaku head to Turin and Vlahovic sign for Chelsea, although it may require a cash payment from the west Londoners.
Similarly, Ziyech has no future at the club and was left out of their pre-season tour as he looked poised to sign for Al-Nassr before a late change in personal terms scuppered the deal. The 30-year-old ‘would love’ to return to Ajax, according to Ben Jacobs, but a move to Saudi looks more likely given the financial commitment that it would take for Chelsea to sell.
Chelsea rejected Fulham’s paltry £4m offer for Callum Hudson-Odoi, who spent last season on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, and the 22-year-old has been left in limbo with Lazio still keen on the winger.
Another player who could be heading for the door is Marc Cucurella. The club only signed the Spaniard for a world-record £62m fee last summer but already, it appears his days could be numbered. Pochettino has favoured Ben Chilwell in pre-season and the 25-year-old could be sold for a heavily reduced fee.
Trevoh Chalobah could join him too, with Pochettino unsure whether the centre-back has what it takes to be a part of his squad.
And as far as the youngsters go, Andrey Santos has impressed so much that he is set to stay with the squad as Cesare Casadei goes back out on loan. Chelsea want a Premier League move for the exciting 20-year-old, but so far only Leicester have registered an interest in the Italian, according to Fabrizio Romano. Lewis Hall could head out for regular football too, with Ian Maatsen now established as the deputy to Chilwell if he gets injured.
Either way, it looks to be another busy few weeks for Pochettino as he welcomes new signings and waves goodbye to more players from his overflowing squad.