There can be little doubt Gary Cahill is a fine centre back who has proven a fruitful investment for Chelsea. However, his future at the club remains up in the air despite recently signing a new contract at Stamford Bridge.
The defender engaged in "positive” talks with Guus Hiddink this week but alluded to frustration at the lack of game time given to him. Under the Dutchman, his minutes on the pitch have been constricted in favour of John Terry.
However, with Terry set to leave in the summer and the club becoming starved of experienced players, they must keep Cahill satisfied or face him leaving the club.
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A regular under Jose Mourinho, Cahill has proven one of the biggest victims of Hiddink’s return.
Having not started in the league since Boxing Day, the ex-Bolton defender has fallen from one of the first names on the team sheet to a mere cup player. While this formula is undoubtedly working for Hiddink, it’s a risky move.
According to the BBC, Cahill stated: "Ultimately, I feel like I need to play football matches. I've always been that way; it's always been in my make-up to play a high percentage of games.
"I realise sometimes things go well, sometimes they don't, but it's very important for me to play football matches."
This exemplifies the Englishman’s concern over his recent lack of game time and hints the situation may curtail his desire to stay at the club.
A SILVER LINING
While Kurt Zouma's six-month injury layoff is unwelcome news for Chelsea, it affords Cahill an opportunity to reform a once-lethal partnership alongside Terry.
Given its success until the Manchester United game last Sunday, the Zouma-Terry duo likely would've remained Hiddink's favoured option for the remainder of his interim spell.
However, Chelsea need to remember one half of this pairing is set to depart at the end of the season and must prepare for life without Terry should the club opt to let him go.
It could be argued the Blues will simply dip into the transfer market to fill the void left by their legendary centre-half, though this may prove risky.
The Premier League is renowned for its physicality and by neglecting Cahill in favour of an expensive recruit, the Londoners would be losing out on someone with a rounded knowledge of English football and physical ruthlessness.
Why gamble on a player who will need time to adapt when Cahill can offer an immediate solution?
Moreover, in Terry leaving the club, the 30-year-old could be left as one of the most senior players at Stamford Bridge. Consequently, it would be unwise for the Blues to shun a player who will be a reliable source of inspiration to rally the troops in low moments as well as nurture new signings and youngsters.
As a result, Chelsea must fight to keep Cahill content as he will play a crucial role in the club’s future.
As Chelsea’s season continues to stall, they must look beyond the summer transfer window and instead maintain experienced players such as Cahill to spearhead their intended resurgence. Allowing the Englishman to leave would be a huge risk and one the club can’t afford to take.
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