Lampard and Cole head Blues endangered list
Roman Abramovich will clear out some of Chelsea's biggest names this summer and is determined to see through the 'project' started by Andre Villas-Boas to create what one source said was a "hungry new team".
A number of Chelsea's most experienced players are in danger of being forced out of the club, unless there is a change of heart, headed by Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda while others such as Salomon Kalou -- who, like Drogba, has a deal that runs out in June -- will go. Even captain John Terry is not 100pc safe, it's believed.
It remains to be seen whether Abramovich is able to carry out the changes he wants -- it's proved difficult in the past to move on high-earning players -- and it might also depend on who he hires to succeed Villas-Boas.
Pep Guardiola is the Russian billionaire's first choice -- ahead of the return of Jose Mourinho -- although an approach will not be made yet, with Chelsea having to ascertain whether he wants to remain at Barcelona.
Chelsea will also see which other coaches are available -- it's believed Fabio Capello and Rafael Benitez have been ruled out -- and there is even the remote possibility that if Roberto Di Matteo is successful as interim manager he could remain beyond this season. That would, however, depend on drastic improvement in form, starting with this evening's FA Cup fifth-round replay away to Birmingham City.
It's understood Abramovich is keen for Fernando Torres to be restored to the starting line-up for the match and Di Matteo's future -- like that of his predecessors -- may also depend on getting the best out of the Spanish striker, who has struggled terribly since his £50m from Liverpool in January 2011.
Abramovich is angry at the failure of the Villas-Boas regime, just eight months into taking over from Carlo Ancelotti, which had a clear remit of rebuilding the squad and playing attractive football.
However, Abramovich told the players in a meeting at the training ground last Sunday, immediately after he personally fired Villas-Boas, that he also held them accountable.
Some were accused of not trying, others of being disruptive and the whole squad were told they were playing for their future at Chelsea.
Yesterday club sources insisted that this was not an empty threat from Abramovich and, interestingly, amid Di Matteo's efforts to galvanise the players during his first training session yesterday he also reiterated the owner's message.
It's understood Di Matteo told the squad that not only was he there until the end of the season -- but they were also. Chelsea want to create an atmosphere by which the players have to examine their own accountability for this season's failures.
Villas-Boas had already begun work on overhauling the squad and reducing its average age. While Cole, Lampard and Malouda have contracts beyond this season, others such as John Obi Mikel, Jose Bosingwa and Paulo Ferreira are also likely to leave. Clearly not all the potential departures will happen and Abramovich does not have a formal list of who is at risk.
Villas-Boas was sacked face-to-face by Abramovich on Sunday -- only the second Chelsea manager to be afforded that courtesy -- and had the remainder of his contract paid up in full. It's thought he will receive around £9m in compensation, with Inter Milan considering a move for him, although it's believed he could be more likely to return to Porto in the summer.
Villas-Boas did not arrive with an extensive back-room staff, although Chelsea confirmed that those he did bring -- fitness coach Jose Mario Rochas and chief opposition scout Daniel Sousa -- have also left the club.
Di Matteo yesterday brought back another former Chelsea player, Eddie Newton, to be his assistant. The pair previously worked together at West Bromwich Albion and MK Dons and, going back to their playing career, they scored the goals that won the club the 1997 FA Cup. Like Di Matteo, Newton's career was also cut short by injury.
The fall-out from Villas-Boas' sacking continued with Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, declaring that Chelsea were an "embarrassment".
"What's for sure is the club, despite unlimited wealth, haven't yet worked out how to build a successful football club," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)