Chelsea confirmed this morning that they've reached an agreement with Didier Drogba on a contract. While the move give Jose Mourinho and his staff a fantastic option on the bench, it does create somewhat of a roster crunch.
As most of you probably already know, Chelsea are limited to seventeen international player in both European and domestic competitions. We're not going to concern ourselves with the UEFA squad here, as for the fall, we're only talking about six group stage games that shouldn't require a ton of depth. The domestic roster is a different matter though, as Chelsea will play the first half of their Premier League schedule as well as making a run at the League Cup with the players they name in September.
At the moment, Chelsea have 17 players that would seem like safe bets for the 17 international squad spots. Those players include: Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Filipe Luis, Ramires, Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard, Oscar, John Obi Mikel, Andre Schurrle, Mohamed Salah, Marco van Ginkel, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic, Willian, Mark Schwarzer, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Didier Drogba
You'll note that we've left two potentially important pieces out. Oriol Romeu surprised many by signing a three-year extension recently, which seems like an odd thing to do if the player was just going to head out on loan again. He's also looked fairly useful thus far during the preseason (for the very little that's worth). so it's not entirely out of the question that he's got a role with the first team this season.
The other question mark is Thibaut Courtois, who will definitely be spending this season with the Chelsea first team. Courtois has been under contract with the club for three full seasons as a U21 (he counted last year due to a May birthday), but the FA is notoriously vague with their regulations as far as homegrown status and FFP are concerned, so how Courtois is classified in September should provide some real clarity going forward as to how those regulations work. Being classified as a homegrown player would be huge for Chelsea though, even if he still took up an international slot in the Champions League.
Should either of those two players end up occupying an international slot, the signing of Drogba would mean that Chelsea have to leave one of those seventeen players out of the Premier League squad. Should the pair both remain with the team and require international slots, Jose Mourinho and company would have a pair of interesting decisions to make.
The easy option is to simply leave Mark Schwarzer off the squad, as he's likely going to be used in the Hilario role anyway. That emergency keeper role could be filled by Jamal Blackman without too much trouble, and if a major injury strikes one of the two world class options, a move could always be made in February.
Two other options would make a lot of sense if both Romeu and Courtois end up with international spots. John Obi Mikel didn't feature a lot last spring, and if Romeu is retained as well as Marco van Ginkel, Mikel would seem like a prime candidate to depart. The other option would probably be pretty popular among Chelsea fans, as the Blues could keep three pure center forwards by simply keeping the homegrown Romelu Lukaku around, allowing them to reunite Fernando Torres with his fans in Madrid.
Regardless, Jose Mourinho and the Chelsea board now have some interesting decisions to make, especially if there're still any non-homegrown additions to come.