Like it or not all good things must come to an end. Ultimately change isn’t something you can pick or choose, it’s a necessity forced upon you by life.
Football is littered with examples. Just as Sir Alex Ferguson was forced to hand over the reigns to the dynasty he had built at Old Trafford for example, or how both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will have to step down from their unreachable plinths in the footballing heavens at some point.
Even Jose Mourinho, ‘The Special One’, isn’t impervious to the ravages of time, and Frank Lampard’s exit from Chelsea in the summer will have served as a timely reminder to Blues fans that only by constantly evolving can they hope to stay on and around the summit of English football.
The past year has seen the disbandment of one half of the core which has kept Chelsea virtually perennially in the hunt for the Premier League title since 2006. Record-breaking midfielder Lampard was allowed to sign for Manchester City-owned New York FC and Ashley Cole departed for Serie A and the allures of Rudi Garcia’s AS Roma.
The old guard
Only Petr Cech and John Terry now hold the fort for the old guard, with Didier Drogba’s return somewhat cushioning the blow a lack of experience gathered through age could have dealt.
Yet by this time next year Mourinho may have already acted to ensure that the squad transition he is tasked with overseeing is complete; the old era is ushered out, the new one ushered in; the ‘little pony’ becomes a roaming destrier and the second coming of The Special One truly begins. In short, things have to change.
Courtois replacing Cech
In Thibaut Courtois Mourinho has a ready-made replacement for Cech so finely tailored that he wouldn’t have believed his luck when watching the youngster performing for Atletico Madrid last term.
The Belgian stopper is every bit the perfect understudy to the man who has been unerring No.1 at Stamford Bridge since 2004, and the fact he’s started seven of the eight Premier League games so far this term infers that the decision on his claim for Cech’s place has already been made.
Issues with Terry
Electing a candidate to take over from Terry stands to be unfathomably more difficult, with the ex-England international having been the beating heart of Chelsea’s lineup for close to fifteen years.
When it comes to replacing the passionate centre-back there is no room for error whatsoever, and the arriving individual needs to either be the ready-made substitute that Courtois is for Cech, or someone who promises to become it.
A search for a player who ticks the first box of those two categories is pointless. There isn’t a centre-back around who would be remotely available and possessive of the same traits which have made Terry such a hero in west London, and if there was the cost incurred in landing him would be so high it wouldn’t be worth considering.
No, if Mourinho is to adequately restore order when Terry eventually either steps down or becomes too physically restricted to properly lead the line, he’s going to have to find a talent who can come in with an exciting future, and then live up to every scrap of talent he has.
Whilst it’s impossible to claim that a youngster is definitely going to be brilliant, thus rendering that second point relatively obsolete, a manager of Mourinho’s talent will surely have already identified the man he wants to get when Terry is no longer an impregnable force at the back.
If you’re even a slight advocate of the recent transfer buzz then you’ll be in the same boat as I am. By that I mean you’ll assume that Mourinho has chosen Raphael Varane as his champion elect.
The Real Madrid youngster is arguably the most promising defender in world football and, thanks in no small part down to Mourinho himself, has already established himself as a player of mass importance in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup.
At 21-years-of-age he quite literally has the world at his feet, and his capture could turn Chelsea’s prospective team for the next few years from potentially great, to potentially unstoppable.
That’s right, it might seem hyperbolic to suggest Varane is the missing piece of the puzzle at Stamford Bridge but, as his admirers will be quick to tell you - and there are many - he really is that good.
The former RC Lens man convinced Mourinho and then-Madrid-advisor Zinedine Zidane of his ability to become a Galactico back in 2011, and was immediately ushered into the first-team.
His surprising exposure to game-time in crucial fixtures for Madrid has since paid testament to just how highly he is rated by arguable the greatest club in the world, and only the tried and trusted partnership of Sergio Ramos and Pepe has prevented him from becoming first-choice at the Bernabeu.
At international level he has no such worries, having already seemingly pipped Arsenal star Laurent Koscielny to the berth alongside either Mamadou Sakho or Barcelona’s Jeremy Mathieu.
Ideal for Chelsea
Unlike fellow starlet Kurt Zouma, who Mourinho has already managed to bring in with an eye on the future, Varane is already the complete-package; as good as most defenders will be in their peak years.
In a Chelsea side which is looking dangerously like it’s going to steamroll the competition on the way to another Premier League title under Mourinho this season it’s difficult to pick areas where the squad can be improved. Although Terry remains fighting fit for now however his advancing years prevent the back-line from being ‘perfect’.
Final piece of the puzzle
Mourinho, with his usual wisdom and tactical guile has already solved the problems he inherited in the midfield and attack with the respective signings of Nemanja Matic, Francesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, but he could prevent another issue from arising by landing Varane.
It wouldn’t be easy, and it would take a hell of a lot of persuading on his part, but Mourinho is known for the good relationships he maintains with former players, and the title of being the heir apparent to a legend such as Terry is everything most centre-backs would aspire to achieve during their career.
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