Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is set to hand Petr Cech a shock recall to the starting XI for tonight's Champions League showdown with Maribor, but there's an ulterior motive at work beyond simply picking a team the Blues boss feels can emerge from a tricky trip to Slovenia with three points.
Mourinho will pick Cech for only the fourth time this season because he's desperate to persuade the Czech stopper to stay at Stamford Bridge until at least the end of the season, despite interest from the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, Roma and Liverpool.
Cech's been forced into a peripheral role by the emergence of brilliant young Belgian Thibaut Courtois, a position which a goalkeeper of his quality surely cannot contemplate in the long-term.
Mourinho handed ultimatum
The 32-year-old has conducted himself with class despite seeing his decade-long reign as Chelsea number one brought to an end early in the campaign, but privately The Telegraph believe he's indicated to Mourinho that he'll have to play more or move on.
Euro 2016 is on Cech's mind as well as playing every week at the highest level while he's still in peak physical condition, which means the prospect of a January move to Madrid or Besiktas remains very much alive despite an olive branch from Mourinho.
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Can Mourinho talk Cech into staying?
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is in the market for a reliable goalkeeper and has a terrific relationship with Cech, dating back to his short but sweet spell as Chelsea chief.
Mourinho will have a huge job on his hands persuading Cech to turn down the lure of a switch to the Spanish capital if there's genuine interest in January, but a partnership deal with Besiktas could offer something of a halfway house.
Chelsea have an agreement in place with the Turkish giants to exchange talent and sending Cech on loan for the second half of the season would allow him to play week-in, week-out, and continue to earn his current current £100,000-a-week salary in the process.
Mourinho clearly has his work cut out to keep a player he's been there and done it for Chelsea across a remarkably consistent decade at the highest level, with a start against Maribor the first step in that ongoing process.
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