Even at 32 years of age, Ashley Cole is still widely regarded as the best left-back in world football.
Despite losing a yard or two of pace in recent years, throughout this campaign Cole has continued to produce solid performances in an uncharacteristically leaky Chelsea defence.
But of course, the day will come when the England international succumbs to the strenuous demands of top-flight football, and following this eventuality, the Blues must have an adequate player to succeed the full-back.
Roman Abramovich’s deep pockets could bring in virtually anyone, but would it bother the Blues faithful if the club elected to bring yet another foreigner into a Chelsea side with an already diminishing English presence?
Here are two of the many contrasting options Chelsea may consider:
Jordi Alba – Barcelona
Estimated Value: £22 million
Undoubtedly the more expensive choice of the two, 23-year-old Jordi Alba’s contract with Barcelona expires in June 2017, virtually ruling out a move for at least a season or two.
But looking past his long-term deal with the Catalan giants, Alba would be the ideal man to replace Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge. The Spanish international is blessed with lightning speed and seemingly endless stamina, enabling him to contribute to attack and defence in equal measure.
In addition to his solid defensive ability, the Spaniard poses a genuine threat in the final third, much like the English veteran. Alba has racked up an impressive five goals and five assists in all competitions so far this season.
Although a move to the King's Road is unlikely for the time being, Alba has the potential to replace Cole and then some. Perhaps a few years down the track Barcelona may consider offers for their athletic full-back, so Chelsea fans should cross their fingers that Cole can retain his place with the Blues for a few more years still.
Luke Shaw – Southampton
Estimated Value: £4.5 million
Chelsea has already expressed a definite interest in Southampton’s 17-year-old Luke Shaw after reportedly having a £10 million bid knocked back by the Saints last January.
An England U17 international and a regular for Southampton, Shaw is quickly blossoming into one of the most promising youngsters in England.
Standing at 185cm, the young left-back’s notable height fails to affect his agility and overall speed. Instead, Shaw has been able to keep pace with most of the wingers he has come up against so far during his short time in the top-flight.
Shaw’s height advantage over Cole means that he will offer a significant aerial presence in attack and defence, something that must be deemed a weakness of the 32-year-old Chelsea man.
Inexperience may hinder the chances of Chelsea attempting to sign young Shaw as an immediate replacement for Ashley Cole, however his early showings in the Premier League demonstrate that time will shape him into a class left-back.
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