In yesterday's win over West Ham in the first game of the 2016-17 season, one notable absence in Chelsea’s starting eleven was Cesc Fàbregas — in fact, he was the only change from Chelsea’s starting eleven from the first game of the 2015-16 season.
The Spaniard, who had been a key part of the squad for the past two seasons, was only a bench option for manager Antonio Conte, and while he did start warming up in the second half, he didn't actually get on the pitch until an intense cool-down session after the match.
Conte's choice wasn’t a surprise to anyone paying attention to our preseason games and the line-ups that the new Chelsea boss has been putting on the pitch since Fàbregas and new signing N'Golo Kanté had become available.
But never, EVER, count out Silly Season to make something out of nothing.
According to Spanish newspaper SPORT, Fàbregas could be on his way out of Chelsea, with Real Madrid being his next landing location. The newspaper claims that Fàbregas is seriously considering leaving England, and move back to Spain since Conte doesn't want his services this season.
Never mind these very quotes from Conte himself right after the game ended.
"Cesc is Chelsea's player, and I'm happy about him, with his attitude and behaviour. He must know from before that when we are a great team like Chelsea it can happen that I have to take a decision before the game to choose a starting XI."
"That can happen that Fàbregas is not in the starting XI, but it can happen for all the players. It's important to see always the right attitude. Because we must fight this season and it's important to stay together in every situation."
"But then the shape can improve and can change all the situations. Now I took this decision but the next game I can change or not. When a coach takes this decision there is always a reason but I prefer to keep this to myself. But I repeat I don't see any problem and I'm very happy to have these players, to train these players."
-Antonio Conte; source: Sky Sports
So, a coach can indeed bench a player for a game — after all, only eleven players can start at any one time — but still have plans to use him in the forthcoming ones? Colour me impressed, I guess.
Similar to Fàbregas, Real Madrid's James Rodríguez has found himself on the bench at the start of the season. Zinedine Zidane also told the media that he still has plans for the attacking midfielder, but Sport reports that the Colombian superstar could be the subject of a bid from Chelsea after months of interest from Arsenal. According to the newspaper, Chelsea have €150 million available to spend, and would be willing to shell out €90 million of that on James.
All considered, including Conte outlining Chelsea’s transfer policy just a few hours ago, rumours like these can be safely slotted in the "LOLwut" bin of the ongoing transfer window.