With the best will in the world Jose Mourinho is going to have extreme difficulty in finding a player capable of replacing John Terry.
The Special One, in the eyes of the Chelsea faithful at least, is capable of turning water in wine, can part oceans with a flick of his hand and deserved to be greeted by hundreds of supporters laying tree branches at his feet when he returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving them back in 2007.
Though the admiration of his abilities may not quite reach the aforementioned examples of biblical hyperbole it’s virtually impossible to describe Mourinho’s career as anything but brilliant. He’s a manager who knows exactly what he wants and more often than not has the formula to ensure he gets it.
The huge task to come
The looming retirement of Terry however may just fall into that dangerous territory of dilemmas Mourinho has not encountered during his various spells in charge of Europe’s elite clubs.
The Blues skipper has thus far defied the usual deterioration associated with players when they near the end of their careers, but it makes sense to assume that his time, just as Frank Lampard’s and Steven Gerrard’s has, will come.
When it does Mourinho will find himself in a predicament unlike any he has encountered before. The beating heart of Chelsea’s body will cease to pump confidence and normality around Stamford Bridge and for the first time in almost two decades there will be no go-to leader.
Life after Terry
Without delving too deeply into the off-pitch troubles that could resonate as a product of Terry stepping down or leaving, it’s fair to claim that there will be a period of serious transition. The most glaringly obvious of course will be who steps in as his direct replacement.
At the moment his long-term partner Gary Cahill is on course to be experienced and wise enough to take up the mantle by the time Terry does relinquish playing responsibilities, but the England international is the type of player who performs best when he has a partner of equal - or better - ability alongside him, and to place all emphasis on him filling his skipper’s shoes would be naive.
As such arguably the most important decision to be made to counter Terry’s omission is who will be ready to step into the void. Based on Mourinho’s stratagem focusing on defensive assets in the transfer market thus far the obvious answer is the young Kurt Zouma, who was purchased in January 2014, only to be loaned back to Saint Etienne for the remainder of the last campaign.
Naturally, and as was always going to be the case, since then he’s struggled to make a lasting impression, one resounding enough to force Mourinho to seriously consider dropping either Terry or Cahill for an extended run of games.
The truth of the matter is that he hasn’t been afforded the game-time to make a strong case for himself - a fair approach from Mourinho when it’s considered how solid Chelsea have been at the back.
No produce without faith
However this needs to change if The Special One is planning on using Zouma as the de facto apprentice to perhaps the most dedicated defender in the history of his club.
Just three appearances in the Premier League so far this term doesn’t pave the way for optimism in the young Frenchman’s capabilities when it comes to smoothing the transition between a defence with Terry and one without it, and he’ll need far more first-hand experience if he’s to maintain the equilibrium alongside Cahill.
Of course with Mourinho trying to juggle a title challenge at the same time he’ll need to pick his matches carefully so as not to pay the ultimate price for forward planning, but perhaps giving Terry time to rest before vital fixtures, such as the ones against the likes of Manchester City in the league and Paris Saint-Germain in the second-round of the Champions League.
Either way Zouma needs to be a confident and assured presence by the time his mentor either steps down out of choice or becomes too much of a liability to continue. If Mourinho doesn’t make sure that’s the case he could be in all sorts of trouble.