The summer transfer window finally drew to a close on Tuesday night and for Chelsea, it was very much a case of job done.
Romelu Lukaku was brought in from Inter Milan for a club-record fee of around £98million and, with his debut goal against Arsenal, the Belgian has already proved himself the ruthless penalty-box finisher that the Blues lacked last season.
Saul Niguez also arrived at Chelsea; the Spain international signed on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid in the final minutes of deadline day.
And we shouldn’t forget about Marcus Bettinelli. The goalkeeper joined on a free transfer and will provide back-up to both Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalga throughout the campaign.
There were plenty of outgoings too. In total, 39 players left the Blues either permanently or on loan. Certain departures hurt more than others.
For the next four months, football will take centre stage. Thomas Tuchel‘s side will be competing in the Premier League, Champions League, League Cup and Club World Cup. The FA Cup also begins in January.
Yet that is also the month the transfer window reopens. And with it comes the usual speculation, agitation, and expectation from supporters.
Chelsea haven’t tended to do big business in winter window in recent seasons. There has been the odd outlier, such as Christian Pulisic‘s signing from Borussia Dortmund, but often the Blues keep their power dry.
What January does allow the Blues to do, however, is freely negotiate with players based abroad who are out of contract in the summer of 2022. And as things stand, there are several big names they could talk to.
Here, we have picked out four potential free transfers the Blues could look to make once the 2021/22 season has drawn to a close.
Yes, we know: Mbappe is almost certainly joining Real Madrid next summer. Yet it would be negligent on the part of Chelsea if they didn’t at least sound out whether Mbappe would be open to a move to Stamford Bridge when his contract at Paris Saint-Germain comes to an end.
The Blues would be able to negotiate terms with the French star from January, a point at which they may very well hold the title of world and European champions.
Then there is Tuchel, who worked with Mbappe at PSG. The two may not have always seen eye to eye but there is undoubtedly huge respect between the two.
“He knows exactly how opponents will behave and can predict matches very accurately,” Mbappe told BILD in June.
“And we must also take this into account: he is still a very young coach. He can become one of the best coaches of the future. He proved it no sooner than with his victory in the Champions League.”
During Tuchel’s two full seasons at the Parc des Princes, Mbappe stuck 69 goals in just 80 matches. It’s an output that the German believes will help the 22-year-old rise to the top of the European game.
“If he wants to be at the top, he has to push them [Messi and Ronaldo] aside. That is clear,” the Chelsea head coach told BT Sport in February.
“He’s a shark with his mentality…he wants to grab everything that he can have. This is the mentality that you need and I mean it in a positive way because he’s a nice guy in private and in person, super nice guy, super intelligent, super funny.
“But once he’s on the pitch he’s a shark and that’s what the best guys are. If you drop one drop of blood in the water they arrive, and this is Kylian.”
Mbappe coming to Chelsea on a free transfer next summer is highly unlikely. Some may even feel impossible. Yet even if there is a one percent chance, the Blues have to try.
Chelsea needed a new midfielder in the summer of 2017 with Nemanja Matic headed for Manchester United. Kessie, according to reports, was a potential option.
The Ivory Coast international had thrived the season prior for Atalanta and was wanted by a host of top European clubs. Chelsea’s interest certainly made sense
Yet the Blues opted to bring in Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco and then Danny Drinkwater from Leicester City. Kessie, meanwhile, signed for AC Milan on a two-year loan deal that became permanent in the summer of 2019.
Chelsea got the rough end of those transfers; Bakayoko or Drinkwater remain Chelsea players but are parked out on loan at Milan and Reading respectively.
Kessie has gone on to make 184 appearances for the Rossoneri and has established himself as a key figure when fit in Stefano Pioli’s side. However, next summer, as things stand, he will be able to walk away from San Siro on a free transfer.
There have already been reports of a potential approach from Chelsea. Given both N’Golo Kante and Jorginho will be in their thirties come the end of the season, perhaps that is no surprise.
The Blues’ midfield will need a refresh and if Saul Niguez’s loan spell doesn’t work out as planned or West Ham United refuse to sell Declan Rice, then Kessie is one cost-effective option that could be turned to.
Sule emerged as a target for Chelsea ahead of this summer’s transfer window. And with one year remaining on the defender’s contract at Bayern Munich – and the Bundesliga giants signing Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig – a deal for the centre-back seemed a genuine possibility.
It didn’t happen. Sule remained at Bayern and has started the campaign well. The Blues, meanwhile, unsuccessfully attempted to sign Jules Kounde from Sevilla.
Centre-back is the biggest long-term area of concern for Chelsea. Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta, and Antonio Rudiger are all out of contract at the end of the current campaign. Andreas Christensen is too but he is expected to sign a new long-term deal.
Bringing in Sule on a free transfer would almost certainly be an attractive prospect for Chelsea, especially as he has been extensively scouted in years past.
The Blues attempted to sign the Germany international from Hoffenheim in 2016 but he turned down the chance to move to Stamford Bridge. “I’ve got my familiar environment here,” Sule explained at the time. “That was and is very important for my development, and the base to put in constant performances at a high level.”
In the final days of the summer transfer window, the 21-year-old was linked with a move to the Premier League. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United were both mooted as potential suitors but Kamara ended up remaining with Marseille.
Perhaps that is because next summer he will have better options. Kamara has been on Chelsea’s radar for several months and Tuchel is understood to be an admirer.
Capable of playing in as a midfield six or as a centre-back, Kamara’s versatility is one of his big strengths. Yet so are his defensive instincts, ability to escape a press, and intelligent passing.
The France Under-21 turned down contract offers from Marseille last season and looks likely to depart at the end of the campaign, that is unless an offer arrives in January as the club’s president, Pablo Longoria, is not keen on losing the academy graduate on a free transfer.
He said in the summer: “Having a player at the end of their contract is not nice, especially when the player in question comes from our youth academy. I don’t like to have a player whose contract is expiring in my squad, nobody is above the institution.
“OM’s position with all players is that we don’t want to have them at the end of their contracts at the end of the season.”