So it seems next season will be the first time in eight years we won't be seeing Ashley Cole in a Chelsea shirt.
He's had a terrific career with the Blues having won a Premier League medal, the Champions League, the Europa League, 4 FA Cups and plenty more besides.
He has proven his worth and quality season after season and so it begs the question, why are Chelsea letting him go?
After December, Cole has found it very difficult to oust Azpilicueta from left-back and with the Spaniard putting in some world class performances it’s easy to see why Mourinho might think Azpilicueta is the man to replace an ageing star. At 24-years-old he has plenty of time left in his career and carve out a place in Chelsea history just like his predecessor Cole but there's more than just Azpilicueta who can play at full back.
The flood of players Chelsea have coming back from loan includes some quality players who are playing at a high level themselves. Patrick van Aahnolt has been playing consistently for Vitesse in Holland and his quality of performance has got him a space in the Dutch squad to go to Brazil.
Ryan Bertrand was once the future Ashley Cole in the eyes of Chelsea fans however in recent years he has struggled to show the progression Chelsea would have wanted from a player who had so much potential. He had a fairly good second half of the season on loan at Aston Villa but with Mourinho allowing him to go on loan it might signal his future lies away from the Bridge.
Chelsea have plenty of younger players who can play at fullback such as Todd Kane, Wallace and Kenneth Omeruo, Tomas Kalas but it seems unlikely Jose will use an untested player as back up to Azpilicueta, either Betrand or Van Aarhnolt would be the likeliest to be on the bench next season but Chelsea might have to look further away to replace the quality of Cole.
Lots has been made of the possibility of Luke Shaw’s replacing Cole in the England squad and it would make sense for him to also make the progression to “bigger” team. Manchester United have reportedly made a £27million bid for Shaw but if Jose wants a player he usually gets his way.
Also having spent three years in La Liga, Mourinho could have a few targets in mind. Top of the list would be Fabio Coentrao or Alberto Moreno. Coentrao hasn’t played as much as he would have liked since his move to Real and a transfer could be a possibility, while Moreno having just won the Europa League with Seville might want to move to a “bigger” club for a bigger chance of more success.
The Bundesliga also have some real options for Azpilicueta’s back up in Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg) and Gōtoku Sakai (Stuttgart) both of whom are young at 21 and 23, both players having been linked with transfers recently either player could be a possibility.
There’s plenty of quality fullbacks in European football and it remains to be seen what Jose’s plans are for next season but Chelsea fans should hope their pursuit for a world class striker doesn’t take up all the transfer efforts this summer, when you lose a player as big as Cole that situation needs to be addressed.
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