Perhaps the silliest rumour of this most silly of silly seasons was that Chelsea were prepared to sell Juan Mata, or even include him in a swap deal for Wayne Rooney, a player the Spaniard is younger than, and comprehensively outperformed in the Premier League last year.
However it is likely that Jose Mourinho will use Mata in a slightly different way to how the Spaniard operated at Chelsea last season, when he was at the centre of Chelsea’s attacking play, with the Portuguese manager likely to push him to the right flank.
"Of course he fits into my plans," Mourinho said. "I have my idea about him, about where he produces better and where he has more difficulty.”
"We will try to help him perform better in those situations. I've always liked a right-sided player to be left-footed.”
With Mata moved to the right, and Chelsea likely to continue with three attacking midfielders behind a central striker, one of Eden Hazard and Oscar is likely to move into the middle.
Both have the potential to become leading players in Europe, but it is still risky to move Mata, who was so influential last season and more important to the side than either Hazard or Oscar, and their success will be crucial to Chelsea next season.
Another name who could be thrown into the mix is Kevin De Bruyne, with the Belgian excelling in pre-season before his injury. De Bruyne played in a central position for most of last season with Werder Bremen, and so could be a more natural fit than either Oscar or Hazard.
However his compatriot Hazard is perhaps the likeliest man to move into the middle, with Andre Schurrle’s arrival meaning that Chelsea have a perfect replacement on the left side.
Hazard had an excellent debut season at Stamford Bridge, and if he continues to improve, it is almost certain he will become Chelsea’s key man in the next few years.
Moving Mata is a risk, but the Spaniard will still be able to have a huge impact on the game from the right-side, and bringing Hazard’s directness into the middle could make Chelsea a more dangerous side.
Chelsea fans, how would you set up your attack next season, and who will have the biggest impact: Mata, Hazard, De Bruyne or Oscar?
image: © Ben Sutherland
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