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Dream 2023 Chelsea XI after £303m spend as Leao, Rice and Fernandez sign

Chelsea could look very different by the end of 2023 as Todd Boehly prepares to continue his high-spending approach.

Between the end of the 2002/03 Premier League season and start of the 2003/04 campaign Chelsea’s starting XI changed by seven players. Their squad had been massively invested in by new owner Roman Abramovich and he effectively bankrolled the team.

Leao, Rice and Fernandez in a merged image.
Chelsea could sign Enzo Fernandez, Declan Rice and Rafael Leao in a major 2023 spree. (Image: Rice Photo by George Wood/Getty Images, Enzo Fernandez Photo by Youssef Loulidi/Fantasista/Getty Images, Rafael Leao Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)

In the space of two years there was a total overhaul of s𝓀𝒾𝓁𝓁 and confidence, not to mention the sheer volume of players. It shocked opposition teams and set the ball rolling for a period of 19 years defined by chaos and trophies.

Skip forward to modern day Chelsea. From the starting XI that beat Manchester City during the 2021 Champions League final it is arguable that seven players still get into Graham Potter’s best team when fit. No permanent midfielders have been signed since 2019, only two have come in since 2018 and no defensive midfielder has been purchased since 2017.

There is little wonder then that Potter is in need of new players across the pitch. There is no easy answer when it comes to which area is in the most need of reinforcements. Central midfield, centre-back, right-back and roles across the forward line would all have a case.

This shows why Todd Boehly and Co are so eager to put their money where their mouth is. Over £250m spent on a mixture of first team players, experienced players and youth players hasn’t made the required difference so far. Potter is set to get his own war chest of similar levels.

In a hypothetical January window and summer window, here’s how the Blues could look at the end of 2023.

Kepa

Kepa là phương án dài hay ngắn hạn của Chelsea?

This could easily have been a new signing but with plenty of those to come it’s only fair to reward Kepa for his form under Potter. Although there are reservations over how long his renaissance can go on for he is undoubtedly worthwhile as the No1 for now. That may be different in 11 months time though.

Just for some housekeeping, if he was to be displaced by a new signing then Chelsea have been linked with Jordan Pickford and Emi Martinez.

Reece James

As far as current players go there is nobody more suited to a starting role in the new look Chelsea XI than James. He’s their most balanced and important cog.

Without him Potter has won just one match. Chelsea do need extra cover for him but realistically when fit he’s the man.

Wesley Fofana

It’s hard to decide how Fofana may be in just under one year, he’s hardly played any football due to a long-term injury followed by consistent setbacks. However, having cost £70m over the summer, offering pace and ball-playing ability he will basically be a new signing when fit.

Levi Colwill

It will be a youthful backline. Colwill needs to have made his debut by the end of 2023 otherwise Chelsea have missed the trick, big time. Returning from his loan at Brighton having worked his way into Roberto De Zerbi’s team Colwill is shining currently and should have a big chance to prove himself at Stamford Bridge.

Benoit Badiashile is set to join this month, there is interest in Josko Gvardiol but Colwill could save a lot of money. Plus, having never played for the Blues he’s basically a new signing anyway.

Ben Chilwell

Another injury worry but when fit Chilwell is Chelsea’s best full-back. There isn’t much worry regarding cover for him after Marc Cucurella was purchased in the summer either. One of those two is almost certain to be in the side at the end of 2023.

Declan Rice

This is when things get fun. Rice is primary target heading into the summer and could transform the side as a defensive midfielder, allowing others around him to express themselves. He could cost around £70m in the summer due to his 2024 contract expiry, a small price to pay for such a key part of any side.

Enzo Fernandez

As the energy and progressive passer around Rice, Fernandez would be one of the biggest signings in the club’s history. After a standout World Cup the 21-year-old has become the story of the January window so far. His £106m release clause may be massive and talks may not be progressing as smoothly as Chelsea had hoped but the Benfica star could be just one part of a major Abramovich-esque overhaul.

N’Golo Kante

Another one in the injured but still very good camp. Kante is arguably second in line for James’ most important player tag. The 31-year-old could yet have a big part to play in how well Potter does in 2023 if he can come back fit and firing.

Although his deal ends in June 2023 talks are ongoing over an extension and there is now positivity that he may remain at the club. This midfield doesn’t have stacks of goals but it’s a lot more dynamic than the current one used by Potter.

Christopher Nkunku

Christopher Nkunku 'to join' Chelsea in summer despite French forward suffering knee injury | Daily Mail Online

This is basically a done deal. A pre-agreement for the player to sign in 2023 has been finalised for several months now and the 25-year-old will be a Chelsea player. For £50m Chelsea are getting one of the best Bundesliga player across the last 24 months. Starting on the right of a very fluid front three, Nkunku is in.

Kai Havertz

Despite his inconsistency in front of goal and the feeling that there is still a lot Chelsea aren’t getting out of Havertz the enigma and intrigue is enough to keep him in place.

With wingers a more pressing priority given the likeliness of Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic to leave this year the centre forward role is effectively Havertz’s to lose.

Rafael Leao

Nkunku may well prefer the left sided spot but this man is simply too dangerous. Leao showed Chelsea a glimpse of why Serie A defences have been terrified by his presence in attack for 18-months when playing against them earlier this season. With the chances of bringing him in during January or the summer, Leao is a first choice attacking transfer.

His release clause is in advance of £100m but a deal may be achievable for less than that due to his contract expiring in 2024. AC Milan are desperate for him to re-sign, unsurprisingly, but we’ve got him down here in Chelsea’s new look attack by the start of 2024.

Chelsea dream XI by end of 2023: (4-3-3) Kepa; James, Fofana, Colwill, Chilwell; Rice, Fernandez, Kante; Nkunku, Havertz, Leao.

It may seem harsh to leave out Thiago Silva but he may leave at the end of his effective one-year rolling deal, plus there is a need for youthful legs to be added in defence. Mason Mount has been one of the top performers for Chelsea in recent years but his poor form and the level of money spent in midfield sees him miss out.

Mateo Kovacic would also be another very good option in the midfield, especially with the fitness worries around Kante. James playing at right-back also doesn’t negate the need for extra cover there, either.

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