The defensive or holding midfielder seems intent on leaving West London for Turkey where he is relishing the chance to play for Galatasaray, leaving Chelsea in need of a replacement.
Here are 10 who can do so, a mixture of current players and potential signings.
Newly re-appointed Blues boss Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge, as does Michael Essien who had been on loan with the boss in the Spanish capital with Real Madrid.
Whilst Essien is a quality holding midfielder, he’s 30 now and has endured a tough few seasons with injuries and fitness concerns. He played just 20 games in La Liga last term under Mourinho, after managing just 14 Premier League appearances for Chelsea the previous season in 2011/12.
Perhaps the reason behind Essien’s lack of opportunity with the Los Blancos was the fine form and fitness of Xabi Alonso who, at 31 years of age, has over 100 caps for the World Cup and European Championships winners Spain, five season and almost 150 appearances in the Premier League with Liverpool, a La Liga title, and a Champions League winners medal to boot.
Conveniently, Alonso also seems to be shuffling his feet over a contract extension with Real Madrid and his relationship with Mourinho was much more amicable that with a number of his national team and club teammates. He could be just the signing Mourinho needs to replace Mikel – in my estimation, he’d be the ideal.
If, however, the Blues fail in their pursuit of Alonso, they should definitely turn their attentions to Everton’s midfield powerhouse Marouane Fellaini who is one of the Premier League’s hottest properties this summer.
The Blues would have to spend big to bring him to Stamford Bridge – somewhere in the region on £23 million which is his reported release clause but, for a 25-year-old quality player who can score goals, make assists and still command the midfield and protect the back line, he’d be worth every penny. Fellaini could be the difference for Chelsea next term.
If all the primary targets are unavailable, perhaps Chelsea could join the ‘race’ for Celtic youngster Victor Wanyama – his exceptional performances, especially in the Champions League against Barcelona, have earned him admirers in Arsenal and Manchester United.
He’s strong, powerful and dominant in the air, he can score goals, direct the play and is mature beyond his mere 21 years and he could come in for half of the price of Fellaini.
Another of the continent’s most highly-rated midfielder is Arsenal and Monaco target Etienne Capoue who adds immense technical quality to his defensive work – he’s a gifted footballer and likely to become a regular first-choice for France. He’d be the kind of player who could link up well in the middle of the park with Oscar and Juan Mata.
However, his likely competition for that position in the French national team will come from 22-year-old bad-boy Yann M’Vila who had been a target prior to his antics on and off field. Whilst there are concerns about his behaviour and attitude, there are no doubts over his quality. He will likely mature into one of the best midfielders in the world, given his potential.
He moved in January to Rubin Kazan for £9.6 million but all the signs suggested he was hoping for a move to the Premier League. I’m sure interest form Chelsea could reignite his passion for English football.
Or, perhaps the special could consider looking closer to home – North London has a fine example of a quality defensive midfielder in Tottenham’s Sandro. The Brazilian was sidelined for most of the season through injury but the 24-year-old is undoubtedly going to be a key player for Brazil in next year’s World Cup. Before his injury, he was Tottenham’s best player, on a par with Gareth Bale.
For another Premier League target, Chelsea could look up North at Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote – with all the problems on the Toon this summer, Chelsea could likely lure him to the Bridge with just a whisper.
At 26, he’s entering the peak years of his career and his abundance of experience in the English top tier would mean he could hit the ground running straight away.
Arturo Vidal or Danielle De Rossi
Or, for something completely different, Mourinho could cast his eyes over his former Serie A rivals Juventus for two of the most exceptional midfielder in Italy – either 26-year-old Chilean Arturo Vidal or his teammate 29-year-old Italian hero Danielle De Rossi. Either one would represent a quality acquisition.
image: © Ben Sutherland