CHELSEA want to bring in Zinedine Zidane to replace Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge.
As SunSport revealed earlier this week, the Blues’ boardroom are deciding whether they should make that move now or let Sarri see out the season.
Whether Zidane would want to come is another question, this Chelsea squad has a mountain of deadwood and is severely lacking in top class talent.
Taking over could knock Zidane – winner of three Champions League titles – and his stellar reputation.
We looked at how Zidane’s Chelsea team could look if he was to take over immediately.
Here we look at how the Frenchman could line-up on the first day of next season.
Chelsea players who could leave this summer
- Willy Caballero
- Rob Green
- Marcos Alonso
- Davide Zappacosta
- Gary Cahill
- Andreas Christensen
- David Luiz
- Baba Rahman
- Matt Miazga
- Kurt Zouma
- Danny Drinkwater
- Lewis Baker
- Tiemoue Bakayoko
- Olivier Giroud
- Callum Hudson-Odoi
- Michy Batshuayi
- Tammy Abraham
GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga
As we discussed when we went over next season’s Chelsea XI should Sarri stay, there is no chance the Blues are giving up on the 24-year-old just yet.
He’s had a mixed start to life in London but the Spain international has flashed massive potential.
Plus, clubs don’t just admit they were wrong after splashing out a world record fee (for his position) on a player.
RB: Cesar Azpilicueta
Azpilicueta will turn 30 at the start of next season and has definitely declined from his usually sky high standards this season.
But should Zidane arrive he will have much bigger problems to fix than Dave, a Blues fan favourite and consumate professional in his seven years at the club.
Chelsea will eventually need to replace the right-back and fans will be hoping that replacement is Reece James.
The 19-year-old has been one of the best players in the Championsip this season and he deserves a chance to make the back-up spot his own.
CB: Antonio Rudiger
The athletic German defender has been Chelsea’s most consistent defender this season and, aged 25, should still have room to grow.
Zidane favours a high back line and high pressing game that favours quick defenders, like Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos.
While Rudiger isn’t at the level of those two, he has the speed to play in Zidane’s system and has improved his passing range under Sarri.
CB: Matthias Ginter
David Luiz is out of contract in the summer and expected to leave as he seeks a longer-term deal than the one-year Chelsea offer players over 30.
There will be flashier centre-backs available this summer – Kalidou Koulibaly and Milan Skriniar spring to mind.
But Zidane needs an upgrade and Ginter should cost significantly less than that pair, allowing the new boss to spend bigger elsewhere.
Ginter, who has also been linked with Arsenal and Spurs, has been brilliant for third-placed Borussia Monchengladbach and is an international team-mate of Rudigers.
While powerful in the air, Ginter has a touch of class on the ball and has spent significant time in his career playing in midfield.
He and Rudiger should complement each other nicely.
However, fans would desperately hope that Zidane gives Andreas Christensen a chance.
The Dane, 22, would be a natural replacement for Luiz, a strong, physical defender with great natural ability on the ball.
While Sarri has given up on Christensen, Zidane may be more willing to give him time – but we’re betting Zidane would be under pressure to deliver instant success.
For that, he may want a more experienced head.
LB: Alex Telles
In this slot under Sarri we placed long-time Chelsea target Alex Sandro but with money needed elsewhere the Juventus man has been priced out of a move.
Porto defender Telles is a more than suitable second option for what Zidane would expect from his left-back.
Under the Frenchman, Marcelo because arguably the best left-back in world football – playing a swashbuckling style that had him further forward than the midfield.
Marcelo has never been a good defender but his pace would often get him out of trouble.
It’s why speed is needed in a Zidane back four and why Marcos Alonso is a certainty to be moved on.
No player has seen his stock rise and fall more dramatically in the last three years than the Spaniard.
The former Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland defender was branded a joke signing when he arrived at Chelsea, before transforming into the best wing-back in world football under Antonio Conte.
He was named in the Premier League team of the season with Alonso performing a truly crucial job in Conte’s system.
But he has become one of Chelsea’s worst players under Sarri, too immobile to play in a traditional back four.
Telles is a dynamic attacking force and quick enough to recovery when he is inevitably caught out of position.
Emerson Palmieri could also develop if Zidane looks internally.
CDM: N’Golo Kante
The one move we’re certain Zidane has to make is to remove Jorginho from the deep-lying playmaker role and put Kante back where he belongs.
Think of Zidane’s great Real Madrid teams – and then think of Casemiro playing further up the pitch and Modric in front of the back four.
It makes little sense.
Kante is the best shield in world football and having him deeper and more central will not stop Jorginho from being able to create from the centre of the pitch.
The Brazil-born Italy international could easily follow Sarri out of the door but we’re betting Chelsea will keep him on after such a big fee last summer.
On the ball Jorginho has the tools to succeed in the Premier League.
Zidane’s teams liked to dominate possession and Jorginho would be a crucial player for that role.
Zidane and Isco had a number of run-ins during their time together at the Bernabeu but that wouldn’t stop Chelsea from trying to reunite them in west London.
Isco is massively out of favour under Santiago Solari and has started just five La Liga matches all season – we’re betting he will try and leave this summer.
The Blues are desperately lacking a third top class midfielder and Isco would appear to suit this position perfectly.
Although he often played further forward under Zidane, Isco would provide the Blues with the kind of playmaking force they have lacked since the departure of Juan Mata.
The Spaniard has the skill to beat a player by dribbling round them and to unlock a defence with a magical pass.
His goal tally has been poor for Los Blancos – he’s never scored more than 11 in a season for Real – but he has provided countless goals with assists or clever work in the build-up.
Zidane showed during his time in Spain that he is not keen on Mateo Kovacic.
Ross Barkley should be nothing more than a squad player and although Ruben Loftus-Cheek has flashed potential, he needs to consistently perform.
We imagine this would cost a pretty penny, but it’d be worth it for the Blues.
RW: Christian Pulisic
Chelsea fans would argue that it should be Callum Hudson-Odoi in this slot but, let’s be honest, club politics will play a big part in this one.
Boardrooms don’t spend £60million (without their manager knowing about it) on a player to watch him sit on the bench.
The American, 20, will be first-choice next season for whichever manager ends up in the Chelsea dugout and will be given a long leash to prove he’s up to the job.
Pulisic burst onto the scene as a teenager but has not improved in his professional career and now finds himself playing second fiddle to the brilliant Jadon Sancho.
Cynical fans would say that Chelsea bought Pulisic for the marketing opportunities he offers in the US, a market that is growing by the day and has the potential to take over.
Pedro and Willian may hang around but with both over 30, Chelsea will only offer them a one-year deal.
They would be able to earn much more abroard and could ask for more long-term security.
LW: Eden Hazard
This one is a risky selection with Real Madrid desperately chasing the Belgian.
But we’re sticking out neck on the line and arguing that Hazard will take the chance to work under Zidane – the player he has idolised since he was a child.
Hazard has cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks and is clearly a step above the rest of the players in the squad (including Kante as he’s in the wrong position).
But if Chelsea manage to sneak into the Champions League and Zidane arrives, Hazard could fancy one more go at Stamford Bridge.
How Zidane uses Hazard would be very interesting to see.
The Belgian has always been at his best when playing from the left, where he gets a bit more space to drive at defenders inside and take potshots at goal.
When Zidane first took over at Real Madrid he started Cristiano Ronaldo from the left but as time went by, Ronaldo basically became a striker, starting centrally but free to roam wherever he wished.
Karim Benzema would provide the movement and build-up play while Ronaldo would be the finisher.
It’s difficult to cast Hazard into that role – he doesn’t have the same killer instinct as the Portuguese – but using Hazard centrally could pay dividends.
The only time he has played through the middle has been as a False 9 and in this Chelsea team that means Hazard has been marked by two centre-backs AND a central midfielder.
There’s no reason for opposition to mark anyone else.
In a more threatening Chelsea XI, with a proper attacker next to him, Hazard could find a lot more joy.
ST: Mauro Icardi
This is a fantasy team so let’s have a bit of fun, why not?
Inter Milan sent the rumour mill into overdrive earlier this week after stripping their star man of the captaincy.
Everyone believes this is the first step of Icardi moving away from Serie A and it’s no secret that Chelsea have coveted the brilliant striker for a while.
Despite his relatively small stature, Icardi is the kind of lone striker that gives defenders nightmares.
His movement in the box is among the very best in the world and he is brutally strong, lightning quick off the mark and has tireless energy in hassling defenders.
Apart from all that, he knows where the goal is, scoring 70 goals in 105 matches in the last two and a bit seasons.
It’d take a lot of cash to bring Icardi to Stamford Bridge but the Argentine, 25, is worth it.
The other option for Zidane isn’t too bad, either.
Gonzalo Higuain has looked very sharp in his opening weeks as a Chelsea player and was the only Blues star to come out of the Manchester City humilaition with any credit.
Zidane never managed Higuain but the pair will know each other from the Real training ground – Zidane was in charge of the B team in Higuain’s final season.
Chelsea have him on loan until the end of the season and have the option of extending that loan for a year.
The Blues would be smart to explore deals for Icardi, knowing they have a more than able alternative already lined up.
Or, better yet, have both.