We’re not yet at the halfway point of this summer’s European Championships but several big talking points have already emerged.
Is Gareth Southgate really the right coach to get the best out of the plethora of attacking talent in the England squad? Will Germany do what very few thought possible and win the tournament? And is N’Golo Kante really the key that unlocks Paul Pogba’s full potential?
The ripple effect from a big summer tournament is long-lasting and tends to impact the very biggest clubs from across European football. In the simplest sense, countless players return late for pre-season training and, as a result, preparations for the forthcoming campaign are disrupted.
There is also the risk that a key player suffers an injury that rules them out for a significant portion of their club season. That has, of course, taken place with Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest that may prematurely end his career.
Clubs also have to deal with the off-field impact of a summer tournament: previously unheralded players can suddenly be catapulted to the top of transfer wishlists while potential targets can become unwanted due to a series of poor displays.
Chelsea are not immune to any of this. The Blues went into the summer as European champions and with more players competing at Euro 2020 than any other club (17).
Yet that comes with its own risks and rewards. And we have looked at how several key decisions may be made for Chelsea by the performances of players for their countries this summer.
Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger decisions
The two defenders were flawless during the final three months of the campaign and played pivotal roles in ensuring Chelsea finished inside the Premier League top four and won the Champions League in Porto last month.
Yet both Christensen and Rudiger headed off to represent their countries at Euro 2020 with just a year remaining on their respective contracts. Neither’s long-term future is certain.
Christensen has looked sharp and – more importantly – confident in a back four during Denmark’s opening two fixtures, both of which ended in defeat in admittedly very different circumstances.
That he has only recently turned 25 years old, is classed a homegrown player, and has thrived under Tuchel make it likely Chelsea will do what they can to keep the centre-back at Stamford Bridge.
Rudiger’s situation is more complex. The Blues have, according to reports, yet to hold formal talks over a new contract for the 28-year-old, who is prepared to walk away next summer on a free transfer.
He went into Euro 2020 with several European clubs interested in his services and Rudiger has performed well for Germany on the left of a back three, the same position he occupied under Tuchel.
Chelsea rarely let players of value slip away. So if the Blues are not able to come to an agreement with the defender over a new deal, it may be that Rudiger departs having very much put himself in the shop window.
The 29-year-old splits the Chelsea fanbase like no other player in recent memory. Yet he was crucial to the Blues winning the Champions League and has impressed during Italy’s opening three games at Euro 2020.
“Jorginho is very well, he has won the Europa League and the Champions League, and now the goal is to win the Euros,” Joao Santos, Jorginho’s agent, explained in an interview with Radio Marte last week.
“He is focused on this and wants to play all the remaining seven games of the European Championship. Obviously, he won the Champions League and therefore there are inquiries from the main teams in Europe.”
Intriguing, certainly. But then Santos added: “In my opinion, he’ll stay at Chelsea next year. The next goal is to make the World Cup in Qatar with Italy – by staying at Chelsea he’s great chances to do so.”
Jorginho’s current contract expires in the summer of 2023 and while Santos has previously intimated talks to extend that deal have taken place, no agreement has been struck on the midfielder’s long-term future.
It’s why Chelsea have a decision to make this summer. Jorginho’s performances for Italy coupled with the Blues’ Champions League win mean his value has never been higher since he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2018.
So this summer is the opportunity for Chelsea to cash in on Jorginho if they wish to do so. There remains interest from clubs in Italy, although it’s debatable as to whether any could come up with a fee high enough to tempt the Blues into selling.
It was early into Tuchel’s reign at Chelsea that Billy Gilmour’s position in the midfield pecking order was established.
“He has all abilities – and the physical ability – to play for us in the first team,” the Chelsea head coach said. “We have a strong midfield and he is clearly, right now, one of four players for central midfield.
“The other three players are Kovacic, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante. That means it is not easy for Billy to find his place, but he is number four right now in my head and to be the number four for two positions is a pretty good start.”
Gilmour made only five appearances under Tuchel; five in the Premier League and two in the FA Cup. They were (just) enough for the 20-year-old to be selected for the senior Scotland squad for this summer’s European Championships.
The Chelsea academy graduate didn’t feature in his country’s opening game – a 2-0 defeat to Czech Republic – but he was handed a start against England at Wembley and finished with the man-of-the-match award in hand.
Unfortunately, Gilmour’s tournament may have been ended early due to testing positive to Covid-19. Yet his performance against England was yet another sign he is capable of thriving at the very top level.
He will return to Chelsea for pre-season training next month knowing he is ready for greater responsibility and first-team exposure. If Tuchel doesn’t believe he can give him that, then there will be no shortage of clubs ready to take the midfielder on loan.
Going into Euro 2020, reports emerged from Spain that Real Madrid were willing to sell Hazard just two years after buying him from Chelsea for £130million.
That decision was supposedly taken after the Belgian’s two seasons at the Bernabeu resulted in countless injuries, only 43 appearances, and just five goals.
There were, inevitably, calls for Chelsea to re-sign Hazard, to bring the 30-year-old ‘home’ to Stamford Bridge. Yet Hazard himself has given the perfect explanation as to why that shouldn’t even be a consideration.
The summer window is officially open and now the Blues can look to build on European glory and bolster the squad to push for Premier League supremacy.
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“I broke my ankle three times, it will never be the same as 10 years ago,” Hazard explained yesterday. “But I know that when I am in shape, I can prove myself on the field and that’s what I’m working on now.
“I try to be a leader on the pitch regardless of who I’m playing for but you can only become a leader if you’re playing well and I play a lot more with the national team. I think if I have playing time with Real Madrid I can also become a leader there.”
Hazard clearly hasn’t given up hope of proving himself at the Bernabeu. That alone makes a return unlikely. But throw in his injury concerns and it makes little sense for Chelsea to drop big money on a player who could devalue his own legacy.