Chelsea are facing a crisis and it’s got nothing to do with the football itself.
At the moment, the only first-team player in attack signed beyond June 2020 is the incoming Christian Pulisic. All four wingers currently in the first-team are in the final 18 months of their contracts, while both (aging) strikers in the first-team are technically without a Chelsea contract for next season.
Here’s how each of their situations stands.
Eden Hazard — Probably the biggest concern. He wants to leave for Real Madrid, his “dream club”, and at the age of 28, it’s probably his last chance to do so. He says he’s happy enough at Chelsea as well, but that has yet to translate to him signing the record contract that’s been on offer from the club for over a year. He says his decision has been made but he won’t reveal it until the right time (or until Real Madrid actually make an offer for him, in the more cynical reading of those recent quotes).
Callum Hudson-Odoi — The second biggest concern, possibly on par with Hazard. The 18-year-old’s desire to leave is rooted deeply in Chelsea’s poor record of youth integration, and while the club’s trying to change that, slowly, it may be too little too late for Callum. Bayern have promised him fame and fortune (and lots and lots of playing time of course); Chelsea have mostly urged him to stay patient and don’t bite off more than he can chew. Is it any wonder he wants to go? Chelsea managed to hang on to him this January and are adamant that he’ll not be allowed to leave in the summer either, but that may be nothing more than some last-minute hopeful posturing.
Willian — Willian doesn’t want to leave supposedly, but he also wants a long-term contract extension, which is something that Chelsea will not offer to him, as per club policy, now that he’s over 30. Barcelona and PSG had made very good offers in the last 12 months, but Chelsea have rejected them all (leading to lots of head-scratching and bewilderment).
Pedro — Pedro, 31, has largely stayed out of the rumor mill after signing a one-year extension last summer. He’s been involved a fair amount and may be willing to play out his contract even in a reduced role. Unlike the previous three players, Pedro probably wouldn’t command a large fee on the transfer market anyway.
Olivier Giroud — Giroud arrived last January but has seen the writing on the wall with Higuaín’s arrival and is looking likely to leave Chelsea and England at the end of the season, with a rumored return to France a strong possibility.
Gonzalo Higuaín — Chelsea have the option to extend Higuaín’s loan for another 12 months, or even make the move permanent, but until one of those options is taken up, he’ll be heading back to Juventus after the season.
If Chelsea don’t do anything — a most temporary solution — we only need to find a striker.
Tammy Abraham is lighting up the Championship, again, but he’s unlikely to be trusted beyond a backup role for next season. If Higuaín does well in the next six months, he could perhaps stay the starter for next season with the 21-year-old playing second fiddle (assuming Morata’s gone for good and so will be Giroud).
With Pulisic incoming, chances are Chelsea won’t sweat Pedro’s situation too much, and if Willian continues to make a fuss about his contract, we could finally, at last, cash-in on him as well. But that’s still a lower priority situation than dealing with the scenarios involving Hazard and Hudson-Odoi.
SCENARIO 1 — HAZARD SIGNS AN EXTENSION
If Hazard signs, he ensures his own Chelsea legend and probably ends all Real Madrid talk for good. A standard five-year contract would take him into his mid-30s if signed now, and by then Real will have surely moved on to younger options (which they already be doing with the likes of Vinícius Júnior).
Unfortunately, the side-effect of Hazard signing could be Hudson-Odoi leaving. While, ideally, the kid is set up to be the successor to Eden, he could well run out of his last shred of patience before then, especially with Christian Pulisic incoming. In theory, Pulisic will replace one (or both) of Pedro and Willian — and a winger quartet of Hazard, Pulisic, Hudson-Odoi, Pedro/Willian/someone would be fantastic — but the temptation of Bayern essentially guaranteeing playing time (true or not) would surely prove too much for Hudson-Odoi at that point.
SCENARIO 2 — HUDSON-ODOI SIGNS AN EXTENSION
Ideally, this happens regardless of what happens with anyone else, but if Hazard does leave, this becomes priority number one, if not higher. Add in the possibility of a transfer ban for Chelsea starting sometime in the next 12 months (or a bit later following appeals), and locking down Hudson-Odoi becomes an ultimate need.
SCENARIO 3 — HAZARD AND HUDSON-ODOI BOTH LEAVE
The worst case. Hazard gets his dream move to Real Madrid and Hudson-Odoi gets to be a star at Bayern, and we’re left with Pulisic (who may or may not be ready to carry the load by himself) and the aging duo of Willian and Pedro. Depending on the timing of contract rejections and departures, this could leave the club in a desperate scramble to make a key signing or two — losing Hazard (or Hudson-Odoi) would not be the end of the world, but replacing them properly could be a massive, and very expensive (both in terms of time and money spent) problem.
We need a director of football?