This summer is going to be a pivotal one for the future of Chelsea Football Club. The Blues are currently transfer banned for two windows, and it remains unclear if they are even going to ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to freeze said ban.
If all goes well however, Roman Abramovich will have this upcoming window to rejuvenate his side before the embargo starts.Embed from Getty Images
There is currently a lot of deadwood in the side; Willian and Pedro are now the wrong side of 30, Callum Hudson-Odoi is likely to miss the start of the season with an Achilles injury and the talisman Eden Hazard is all but confirmed to be leaving for his dream move to Real Madrid.
This means that despite Christian Pulisic arriving from Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea are going to have a lack of top-quality wingers at the club. And out of the youngsters coming back from successful loans away from the club like Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, none of them play out wide. So if the transfer ban starts this summer, Chelsea may have to look to Kenedy, Charly Musonda, Victor Moses or Lucas Piazon for cover in these areas.Embed from Getty Images
But if a successful appeal is made to delay the embargo for the summer window, there are a few options available that have been linked to a move to West-London: David Neres of Ajax, Nicolas Pépé of Lille and Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace.
David Neres – AjaxEmbed from Getty Images
What a year this guy has had. At just 22 years of age, Neres has had an outstanding second season in the Dutch capital, building on the 14 league goals and 13 assists he achieved last year.
Despite only making 10 starts in the Eredivisie this season, due to manager Ten Hag preferring Dušan Tadić and Hakim Ziyech on the wings, Neres has scored three goals and got nine assists in less than one-thousand league minutes. That’s a remarkable feat.
Neres has however started in all but two Champions League matches this season. He played every game in the knockout stages, including wins at Real Madrid and Juventus, before getting injured in the warm-up of their semi-final second leg against Spurs. Would he have been the difference? Who knows?Embed from Getty Images
The Brazilian’s fine club form was rewarded with his first senior international appearance against the Czech Republic in March and he has also booked a place in the squad for the Copa America which will start in Brazil next month.
A left-footed player who is most comfortable on the right wing, Neres could be available for a modest fee of £40 million this summer, and negotiations may be made easier by Chelsea’s positive relationship with Neres’ agents Giuliano Bertolucci and Kia Joorabchian – the pair both represent Blues defender David Luiz.
Nicolas Pépé – LOSC LilleEmbed from Getty Images
Relatively unknown at the beginning of the season, the French-born Ivory Coast international has been one of the standout players in Ligue 1 this season. Pépé scored 20 goals and registered 11 assists in 36 appearances, which fired Lille back into the Champions League. That’s a contribution to a goal almost every game (104 minutes).
Another left-footed right-winger, Pépé has really made a name for himself for his dazzling, meandering dribbles and his composed finishing. He has attracted the attention of a number of top clubs, including Manchester United, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich.Embed from Getty Images
The biggest question mark looming over the 23-year-old’s head at the moment is this. Can he do it in the Premier League?
Sure, having a part in 31 goals in 36 games is incredibly impressive, but the step up from Ligue 1 to the Premier league is a colossal one, and with the Lille owners reportedly slapping a £70 million price tag on the sought-after winger, it may be a gamble that Chelsea cannot risk taking with an impending transfer ban.
Nevertheless, this guy has extraordinary ability and if the asking price can be lowered, we could very well see this man in blue next season.
Wilfried Zaha – Crystal PalaceEmbed from Getty Images
You should all be familiar with this guy. After four stellar seasons with Crystal Palace, Wilfried Zaha seems more than ready once again to fly out of the Eagles’ nest.
Second only to Eden Hazard in successful dribbles and take ons for the last two seasons, Zaha has been Palace’s best player by far this season. His 10 goals and 5 assists have been instrumental to their success this year, but it is rumoured now that Zaha wants to move again to a bigger club.
His previous big move away from Selhurst Park was a disastrous one however; in 2013, Zaha became Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing at Manchester United for a fee of £10 million.Embed from Getty Images
Zaha failed to impress new manager David Moyes and made just four first-team appearances during his time at Old Trafford before being loaned out to Cardiff City. After replacing Moyes as United manager, Louis van Gaal allowed Zaha to return to Palace on loan before the deal was made permanent.
Many will argue that this move was too soon for the Ivory Coast international, and that he has come on leaps and bounds in the last six years. When asked why Zaha failed to make the grade at United, Solskjaer said earlier this season: ‘He was a great lad, he worked hard to improve and it was maybe too early for him when he came to United.”
The fact that he is arguably the closest the Premier League has got behind Eden Hazard in terms of the ability to take someone on and beat them, he may just be the best replacement for the exiting Belgian.