CHELSEA will release two of the players who won the Champions League final against Bayern Munich with neither Jose Bosingwa nor Salomon Kalou appearing on the club’s ‘retained’ list.
There are doubts over three other members of that squad — Paulo Ferreira, Michael Essien and Florent Malouda — who all have one year left on their contracts although talks are set to take place this summer with them and Frank Lampard, who is expected to extend his deal.
With Didier Drogba having already announced he is leaving – a deal has been agreed with the Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua – Chelsea have not taken up the option of extending Bosingwa’s contract and the Portuguese defender will definitely leave. Talks could still take place for Kalou to stay, with his contract expiring, but none are planned.
Lampard, 33, has finished the season strongly and has already stated that he would be interested in extending his career at Stamford Bridge having also appeared set to leave earlier this season.
Chelsea are pushing ahead with plans to reshape their squad with chief executive Ron Gourlay saying yesterday that there were “a number of targets out there”. He ruled out the possibility of David Luiz leaving and said the club would decide shortly whether goalkeeper Thibault Courtois will go back out on loan.
Two other Belgians, striker Romelu Lukaku and winger Kevin De Bruyne, will be assessed on the club’s pre-season tour to the United States before it is decided whether they should also go out on loan while defender Jeffrey Bruma will stay at Hamburg for another season. Yossi Benayoun, whose loan at Arsenal has ended, will return to Chelsea.
Gourlay refused to discuss specific transfer targets but suggested that Chelsea’s new status as Champions League winners would help attract the right players.
He would not confirm whether Chelsea were interested in Lille’s Eden Hazard, who has also named Manchester City and Manchester United among his suitors, but said: “He’s an exceptional player and I’m sure that there are more than three clubs interested in him. Clubs with the biggest financial clout.”
Winning the Champions League — and therefore staying in the competition next season — would ultimately mean “hundreds of millions” in added revenue for the club, Gourlay suggested. It is also understood that Chelsea are close to breaking even and, finally, turning a profit which has been the goal since Roman Abramovich acquired the club in 2003.
“The top players want to play in the Champions League,” Gourlay said. “There’s a lot of competition out there. You’d want to be in that competition to give yourself the best chance. Every season we have brought three or four players in, and that will continue.”
But will Chelsea see a new manager? Gourlay said a permanent appointment could be made “any time over the next couple of weeks and certainly by the time we go on tour [July 14]”.
Gourlay said that the fact that interim head coach Roberto Di Matteo was on holiday “would not slow down the process” and insisted it was “unfair” to suggest that the Italian’s only chance of being considered had been to win the Champions League. However he added: “It certainly would have made the discussions a bit different. The fact that he has the Champions League on his CV helps him enormously.”
Gourlay said that since Di Matteo was appointed, following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas in early March, he had “picked up the baton and sprinted to the front”, adding: “We’ve got to take that on board. He’s done a fantastic job. When he came in it was a difficult time for the club. I was accused – and the club was accused — is this the right decision? Why have you waited so long? And it was a very difficult decision for the football club because we really wanted Andre to work.”
Gourlay said he accepted that, with Di Matteo’s contract expiring next month, “he could go somewhere else”, but everyone had agreed to delay a decision until the end of the campaign.