IT’S EASY to feel like Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea for a second stint as manager will mean the Portuguese picking up exactly where he left off, but that can’t happen.
Pillars of his first reign John Terry and Frank Lampard might still be there, as well as Ashley Cole and Petr Cech, but they are all nearly six years older and Mourinho must take the squad forward.
I don’t think he will make dramatic changes, as I’m sure he will feel comfortable with the squad he has inherited.
Yet there are likely to be two or three arrivals and, as happens at every club, some players will inevitably get left behind.
Young Belgian Thibaut Courtois, who enjoyed a season of first-team football at Atletico Madrid last term, looks ready to take over the gloves from Cech.
However the long-serving Chelsea No1 is only 31, so probably has a few seasons left in him, and I’d be very surprised if Mourinho didn’t keep faith with him.
The most likely outcome is Courtois going back on loan, although I’d insert the option to recall him at Christmas, just in case Cech’s deterioration is sudden.
Both David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic have attracted interest from Barcelona, but I expect Mourinho will be very keen to keep them.
Cole and Gary Cahill look likely to have important roles too and, while Cesar Azpilicueta’s future looks less secure, the Spaniard has done fairly well and I doubt a new right-back will be the new manager’s top priority.
The most interesting question is over the future of Terry. Like Lampard, the centre-back is no longer the automatic pick of Mourinho’s first Chelsea tenure – in fact age has been quicker to catch up with Terry than the midfielder.
I’m sure there remains a mutual respect, however, between player and manager and I see Mourinho preferring to keep the old guard – Terry included – together.
Oriol Romeu’s long-term injury saw him miss most of last season and means he has been left behind, although I wonder whether John Obi Mikel’s claim for that defensive role might be even more under threat.
Lampard showed at the end of the season that he still has something to offer, so should have a role – although he is on thin ice. Well-timed runs are such a crucial component of his game and when the legs go, it will dent his effectiveness considerably.
Galatasaray’s Wesley Sneijder, a key member of Mourinho’s Europe-conquering Inter Milan side, has been linked with a reunion and I could see him being of interest.
Andre Schurrle has been tipped for months to join from Bayer Leverkusen, though I’m not sure he looks like the kind of player Mourinho would choose.
Fiorentina’s coveted Stevan Jovetic is an alternative in that wide left role and would be a very good buy, if the money is there. Either way Yossi Benayoun’s time looks up. Hulk is another on Chelsea’s radar, but I’d expect them to go for an out-and-out centre forward before targeting a wide player.
Romelu Lukaku, another who has shone on loan, looks like a player Mourinho would want to keep at Stamford Bridge this season.
I don’t think he’ll ditch Fernando Torres, despite his best being behind him, unless he could use him in part exchange for someone like Gonzalo Higuain. However, I don’t see Real Madrid going for that deal.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.