With a new head coach in the dugout, a host of players potentially coming and going and an awful lot of improvement required after last season, a pivotal summer lies ahead for Chelsea. Under the leadership of Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard, the Blues limped to 12th position in the Premier League and a quarterfinal Champions League exit. At least that means the only way is up for Mauricio Pochettino, the former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain head coach who has been handed the reins at Stamford Bridge.
This could be as turbulent a few weeks among the playing staff as last season was for their coaching equivalents with moves in the offing for the likes of N’Golo Kante, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount. Let’s recap some of the biggest rumors and updates from our CBS Sports insiders and experts:
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A legend leaves
July 6: In 11 years at Stamford Bridge, Cesar Azpilicueta quite literally won it all. Club captain since 2019, he hoisted the Champions League, Club World Cup, Premier League, Europa League and both domestic cups in a glittering career that sees him depart a beloved figure in west London. In a glowing tribute his now former club described him as “forever a Chelsea legend.”
Azpilicueta departs on a free transfer a year before his contract expires and will don an Atletico Madrid shirt next season. “Every single day that I got to wear the No. 28 shirt on my back and it is the honor of my life to be a part of this club’s history,” he wrote in a lengthy farewell message to Chelsea supporters. “I am forever indebted to [the fans], you have taught me what it means to be a Blue. From now on, I will be cheering you all from afar, but my love for this club will never change.”
Azpilicueta’s exit means only three of the starting XI from Chelsea’s Champions League triumph just two years ago will still be at the club next season. With Christian Pulisic bound for the exit, all three substitutes will also be goners along with former head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Mount moves on
July 5: Eighteen years after joining the club, Mount is a Chelsea player no more. The 24 year old has joined Manchester United in a deal that will net his former an initial £55 million with a further £5 million in possible add ons. Mount departs having made 195 appearances for the Blues with 33 goals to his name as well as a Champions League and Club World Cup crown.
“Given the speculation over the last six months, this may not come as a surprise to you,” said Mount in a farewell message published before his move to Manchester was officially announced, “but it doesn’t make it any easier to tell you that I’ve made the decision to leave Chelsea. I feel you deserve more than just a written statement. So I wanted to tell you directly how grateful I’ve been for all of your support over the last 18 years. I know some of you won’t be happy with my decision, but it’s what’s right for me at this moment in my career.”
Chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owners Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano said: “Mason is a consummate professional and a popular figure at the club. We want to thank him for all his efforts on and off the pitch throughout his time at Chelsea.”
Hakim Ziyech Al Nassr move on verge of collapse
June 30: Hakim Ziyech will undergo further medical tests in Madrid on Friday in a bid to revive his faltering move to Al Nassr. Initial tests on the playmaker, who was due to depart Chelsea in an €8 million deal, delivered concerning results on the status of his hip and knee and sources have told CBS Sports that the deal is likely to collapse.
However further examinations offer some hope for Ziyech. Even if they were to offer a more optimistic picture Al Nassr would look to renegotiate terms for the 30 year old, lowering his base salary and include fitness related clauses.
Should Al Nassr pull out of the Ziyech deal their focus would switch to Bernardo Silva, according to CBS Sports sources. The Public Investment Fund (PIF) are working to secure the Manchester City star, who had been earmarked for Al Nassr’s rivals Al Hilal. Were PIF to secure his services it would then be up to Bernardo which of the Riyadh rivals he would like to turn out for. Al Nassr, however, feel they have a potential trump card in the presence of Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo on their roster.
June 27: Chelsea’s first big sale of the window has been concluded with Mateo Kovacic signing a four year contract at Manchester City, joining for a £25 million fee with a potential £5 million in further add ons. For Chelsea that constitutes a reasonable return for a 29 year old heading into the final year of his contract, having shown little indication he would be prepared to extend, potentially for less money, under the new regime at Stamford Bridge.
Saudi Arabian exodus
June 21: Perhaps even more important than adding to the squad this summer is trimming back a group that was so swollen last season that the Cobham training ground dressing rooms were not big enough to accommodate every first team player. In their attempts to do so Chelsea faced the same challenge that all of the Premier League’s wealthiest teams do, the sheer paucity of clubs who can match the wages they pay their fringe players.
That was until help came from Saudi Arabia, with at least four top earners expected to depart for the Pro League this summer. Chelsea might have liked to keep N’Golo Kante but they could not match the €50 million a year Al Ittihad have offered. The move was made official on Tuesday by both clubs. Also, Hakim Ziyech, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy will all move to Saudi Arabia The players will move to respectively to Al Nassr, Al Hilal and Al Ahli. Ziyech will join Al-Nassr for around €10 million, while Koulibaly will join Al-Hilal for around €20 million.
who has agreed personal terms with Cristiano Ronaldo’s club. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could also make the move to Saudi, while Romelu Lukaku has reportedly refused the possibility to move to Saudi Arabia as of now. In total that could scrub nearly £1 million a week off the Chelsea wage bill, handing breathing room and further funds to invest in new signings. — Franceso Porzio and James Benge
June 20: The first new signing of the Pochettino era has been made… and it is one that Chelsea had lined up all the way back when Tuchel was in charge. Christopher Nkunku’s arrival was a formality soon after the summer transfer window closed in 2022, with the club hierarchy committing to a fee greater than his £60 million release clause to get their man out of RB Leipzig before his many other suitors could get a deal together.
“I am incredibly happy to be joining Chelsea,” said Nkunku, who had been at PSG before joining RB Leipzig. “A big effort was made to bring me to the club and I am looking forward to meeting my new coach and teammates and showing the Chelsea supporters what I can do on the pitch. Having played in Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, I now want to play in the Premier League, one of the strongest leagues in the world. I am very excited for this challenge and will be proud to wear the Chelsea shirt.”
Nkunku should help with the greatest issue facing a Chelsea side who scored 38 goals in 38 Premier League games last season, in his last two Bundesliga campaigns he scored 36 whilst adding a further 21 assists. He is not, however, the center forward that the Blues need — Nicolas Jackson of Villarreal could be — but the sort of inside left attacker who plays best with someone else leading the line that Pochettino already has a lot of. How he can be fit alongside Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk (assuming Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang depart) will be an early challenge for the Argentine to puzzle out.
Midfield reinforcements wanted
June 20: It is not all about sales. The potential departures of Kante, Kovacic and Mount, six months after Jorginho left, mean that Pochettino will need new bodies in midfield. Chelsea had wanted Manuel Ugarte but were beaten to his services by PSG and are now targeting Caicedo. The London Evening Standard reports that the Blues have had a £60 million offer rejected with Brighton holding out for £100 million. In addition Chelsea are one of several clubs keen on Southampton’s Romeo Lavia, also wanted by Arsenal,