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Who Could Chelsea Realistically Sign This Summer?

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Frank Lampard's need to buy

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has had limited experience in the transfer market during his reign so far at Stamford Bridge. A transfer ban for the west London club meant that the ex-Derby County boss had to wait until January when the ban was lifted to delve into the market.

There were no new faces at Stamford Bridge in January, however, but the signing of Hakim Ziyech was confirmed, with the Ajax star set to join the club at the end of the season.

The deal for Ziyech marks Chelsea’s first venture into the market under Lampard, and he will be desperate to further bolster his squad that has struggled with consistency and one that seems to be gradually falling short of improving sides like Manchester United.

The Blues are in a good place for Champions League qualification once again, but with their rivals no doubt set to strengthen in the summer, Chelsea will have to look at getting the cheque book out too if they are to compete next year.

With the transfer ban over, and Roman Abramovich potentially feeling like he is playing catch up, Lampard will surely have a healthy budget. We take a look at four realistic options for the Chelsea boss to pursue.

Philippe Coutinho

During his time at Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho was without a doubt one of the most exciting players in the Premier League. The ex-Red's tricky dribbling and long-range goals earned him a status as one of Anfield's modern Premier League greats. Subsequently, after five years of brilliance on Merseyside, Coutinho's performances forced the dream to move Barcelona, costing a staggering £142m.

The attacking midfielder has struggled to produce the quality that matched this price tag, leading to a loan to Bayern Munich last season to find this old form. This move is a loan with an option to buy, but Bayern are not a club that often pay such drastic fees for a player of any kind. Now, at 27 and being the third most expensive deal ever, it's unlikely Abramovich will do the same and get the deal done on a permanent basis straight away and perhaps aim for a loan move.

Barcelona seem keen to offload Coutinho in order to bring in some new signings of their own and have reportedly been offering him to a host of clubs, with Chelsea being at the top of this pile. Whilst he may not have lived up to expectations at the Camp Nou, the Brazilian is still an incredible player and could end up being a great signing for a club looking to move up the table, such as the Blues.

Willian and Pedro both have contracts expiring in the summer and look set to leave, and consequently leaving spaces to fill on Chelsea’s flanks. This isn’t to mention the gargantuan Eden Hazard-shaped void that has been left to fill since his departure to Real Madrid last summer. Since this, Chelsea have been desperate for another superstar, with Tammy Abraham's goals the only notable output in the attacking sense this campaign.

Coutinho already knows how to terrorise Premier League defences, and he would surely love a second bite at the cherry to re-establish himself as one of the world's best. It was his performances in England that earned Coutinho a big-money move in the first place and if there is ever a place and a time to do this once more, it's Stamford Bridge.

When all is considered, Paddy Power see a move to Chelsea the most likely option, offering odds of 5/6 for Coutinho to join forces with Lampard in the summer. 

At 27, the ex-Liverpool star is the perfect option for Chelsea's rebuild. Whilst the youth products are aligning well, eventually, the mega deals must come, as this is, after all, how the club built themselves into a European heavyweight in the first place.

Declan Rice

The West Ham United midfielder has been a breath of fresh air in an otherwise frustrating two seasons for the Hammers. The 21-year-old properly put himself on the map at the start of the 2018/19 season, making the defensive midfield spot his own and catching the eyes of England's top four contenders in the process.

Rice's performances in the past two years have earned plenty of admirers, including Gareth Southgate, who gave the West Ham star his first England call up after a controversial switch from the Republic of Ireland.

Alongside a year-long pursuit from Manchester United, Chelsea have been one of the clubs to show their interest in Rice and Paddy Power show the Blues as the favourites to claim his signature with odds of 5/6 for Rice to move from east to west London.

Rice would no doubt fit into Lampard’s side, as he has shown that he holds the quality to anchor a midfield at the bright age of just 21. There is also the added factor of the youthful English build from Lampard at Stamford Bridge, and this would fit the bill perfectly for the Chelsea boss. 

A move to the five-time Premier League winners would be like returning home for Rice. The midfielder was part of the Blues’ youth setup as a youngster, before being released at the age of 14 and moving in with the Hammers' famous youth academy.

It seems there were no hard feelings towards the club from Rice, either, and he certainly still holds them close to his heart, and current Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount could play a key factor if the transfer is to happen.

Rice and Mount are best friends and having first become close as youngsters at Chelsea, the pair have remained a tight-knit since. They haven’t let Rice’s time at West Ham get in their way, and the duo have recently enjoyed summer holidays together, whilst also getting the chance to be international teammates with England.

There is no doubt that Rice would love to team up with Mount at club level and finally establish his Chelsea dream. If the England international is to move anywhere this summer, it looks like Stamford Bridge will be the place.

Dries Mertens

Some activity will no doubt be needed from Chelsea in order to fill the gaps likely to be left behind by Willian and Pedro. The incoming Ziyech will take some of the strain off the need for a winger, but another man on the flanks is a must if Chelsea are to properly compete next year.

Willian has given seven years of solid service to the Blues, whilst Pedro has also helped claim two league titles, an FA Cup and a Europa League since 2015. There is, also, the gap left by Hazard, which although almost impossible to fill, Dries Mertens is as close as they may get.

Frank Lampard’s side have been linked with some big money moves in that winger department ever since Hazard's departure and Chelsea are seemingly going all out in this position. 

Mertens has been a star at Napoli for many years now, equalling Marek Hamisk's all-time goalscoring record at the club of 121 goals. However, at 32, the Belgian's time in Naples looks to be coming to an end this summer.

The creative winger's contract is set to expire this summer and he is yet to sign a new deal. Chelsea have reportedly been monitoring this situation and even tried to secure a deal in January, but nothing materialised.

Mertens isn’t a long-term solution, compared to someone like Coutinho, who is 27. Although, the 32-year-old would certainly help Chelsea’s attacking potency for at least a season, as Mount continues to grow and as Ziyech gets a year under his belt.

Considering he won't cost a penny, this deal for Lampard looks as likely as any to happen this summer, and what a signing it will be - Paddy Power are offering odds of 9/4 to join Chelsea before September.

Nathan Ake

Chelsea are no strangers to bringing back ex-players and Nathan Ake could very well be next on this list.

Initially moving to Bournemouth on loan in the summer of 2016, the Dutch centre-back signed permanently a year later when he realised his Chelsea career was stalling at his bright, young age. Since signing, Ake has been a permanent resident in the Bournemouth defence and has developed into one of the Premier League’s most consistent defenders at the same time.

Having just turned 25, the Cherries star is close to entering his 'prime years', and with Bournemouth’s Premier League future in doubt, it could be time for the Dutchman to move onto bigger things.

Ake is certainly at the right level to be featuring in Chelsea’s backline when you consider Lampard is favouring men of a similar age in Andreas Christensen, Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori. Plus, when all considered, the ex-Chelsea man has more Premier League appearances than each of them and has performed better at the same time.

Since leaving the Blues, the centre-back has developed from being just a prospect into one of the better defenders in the top-flight. He is still young too; Ake has the ability to act as a short term boost as well as the potential to improve and be part of Chelsea’s defence for years to come. 

The Blues reportedly have a £40 million buy-back clause for the Dutch defender and a return for Ake could be just what the west London side need to shore up their defence.