Rice in, Kovacic out – Six Chelsea transfers Potter must consider after Enzo Fernandez impact
Chelsea have been unafraid to make their mark in the transfer market since the arrival of Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali. The £300million spent in January cemented that while the capture of Enzo Fernandez on transfer deadline day sealed a record Premier League deal.
The Blues are attempting to undergo a transition for the long term but it did not take their £106.7million signing long to impress . Fernandez came straight into the team to complete 90 minutes against Fulham with no hesitation from Graham Potter .
It was a move, in addition to players recovering from injury, that saw the likes of Ruben Loftus- Cheek and Lewis Hall miss out on the matchday squad versus Fulham. With the volume of players that Potter has at his disposal, players being left disappointed could be a common feature of the remaining months of the season.
Loftus-Cheek’s place may come under scrutiny. The Blues did not have a midfield option outside of Carney Chukwuemeka at Stamford Bridge with Fernandez sitting at the base of midfield with Conor Gallagher and Mason Mount in more advanced roles. Both Gallagher and Loftus-Cheek have seen their futures speculated over in the last month but no move has been forthcoming with interest from the likes of Crystal Palace and Newcastle United being quashed by Potter early in January.
Loftus- Cheek has been content with his role so far this season and was perhaps the most consistent presence in midfield ahead of Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho before picking up his injury.
Come the summer however, Loftus-Cheek will have just a year remaining on his deal meaning that both parties will need to come to an agreement over his future. Kovacic finds himself in a similar position and whether Potter sees the Croatian meshing with Fernandez, or if the club see a final opportunity to earn a decent fee may be key to his future.
A more pressing contract issue may be that of N’Golo Kante who is set to be without a club come the end of June. The Frenchman is yet to play under Potter due to his injury issues but there have been talks over an extension. Likewise a decision will be required on loanee Denis Zakaria. The Blues hold an option worth shy of £30million to make the Swiss midfielder a permanent option but Chelsea’s injury list has made it difficult to see where he truly lies in the current pecking order.
Much will depend on how Fernandez is used going forwards to. The Argentina international sat at the base of midfield against Fulham but already showed hints of what he could do if he was given further freedom to move the ball upfield. Chelsea’s next transfer window, though likely to be more restrained than previous, is likely to see a clear out and how Potter sees Fernandez is sure to dictate who comes through the door.
Declan Rice is a name that has long been connected to Chelsea and the 24-year-old will enter the final year of his contract providing an opportunity. There will be competition for Rice and other high- profile midfielders come July however, and all options must be assessed in Chelsea’s planning.