QUESTIONS REMAIN OVER COLE FUTURE
Ashley Cole’s future at Chelsea remains in doubt as his exile from the starting XI extends into the final six months of his contract.
Cole, a stalwart for club and country for the past decade, has featured in just two of the Blues’ last 11 matches since producing a display which “didn’t satisfy” Jose Mourinho against Newcastle.
The 33-year-old’s current deal expires in the summer and, while fellow veterans John Terry and Frank Lampard are in the same situation, only Cole finds himself frozen out of the team.
Mourinho publicly insists he has no fears of losing Cole but his continued preference for Cesar Azpilicueta on his weaker side suggests he is not overly concerned with keeping him happy either.
Whether or not Cole remains at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s search for the successor to one of the great left backs of his generation is already well underway.
Ryan Bertrand is not viewed as that man. Patrick van Aanholt is impressing as part of Chelsea’s loan army at Vitesse Arnhem, while Southampton’s Luke Shaw remains coveted at Stamford Bridge.
Shaw has established himself as one of the most talented Englishmen of his generation at St Mary’s and is a boyhood Blues fan, though he signed a new long-term contract last summer.
Tottenham is also chasing the 18-year-old and enjoy a good relationship with his representatives, though Southampton is adamant the club will entertain no offers in January.
If Shaw does eventually end up at White Hart Lane, Chelsea will be kicking itself – the club released him from its academy as a youngster, believing him to be too small.
CHELSEA IN POLE POSITION TO SIGN GUARIN
Despite his public insistence that Chelsea will buy no one in January, Jose Mourinho has been granted permission to reinforce his squad with a central midfielder.
The likeliest arrival is Inter star Fredy Guarin, who has been informally transfer listed by his club as new owner Eric Thohir attempts to cut costs.
Manchester United is also interested and both clubs dispatched officials to Milan to discuss a deal earlier this month, but Guarin is understood to prefer a move to Stamford Bridge.
Inter directors Piero Ausilio and Marco Branca traveled to London a fortnight ago to hold talks over the Colombian, who could be available for around 14 million euros.
Guarin, who is keen to play under Mourinho, has admitted to reporters that talks between his agent and the Portuguese have already taken place, stating on Monday: "I cannot deny there is something, I haven’t spoken with Mourinho but my agent did."
The former Porto star has a contract at San Siro until 2016 and has indicated publicly that he would be happy to stay in Milan if Inter cannot secure a deal with which the club is happy.
DE BRUYNE EDGING CLOSER TO JANUARY EXIT
One player who could well be leaving Stamford Bridge in January is Kevin De Bruyne, having failed to establish himself in Jose Mourinho’s first-team plans.
The Belgian shone in Chelsea’s opening day win over Hull City but has frustrated Mourinho with his attitude and performances since, featuring just four times in the last two months.
Club insiders say he has visited the manager’s office at Cobham more frequently than any other member of the squad as he seeks clarification on his role in a World Cup year.
De Bruyne's agent Patrick de Koster has admitted that the 22-year-old is seeking more first-team opportunities but was at pains to make clear that his client will be patient and let Chelsea decide what is best for him.
"Of course, Kevin is a player who likes to play regularly but we know Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world and there is always going to be competition," De Koster told Goal earlier in December.
"He has told me that every day he is training like a demon because it means a lot to him. But I will not say that he has to move in January - we will wait for the evaluation from the club."
Schalke and Wolfsburg are both interested in loan deals for De Bruyne, while a permanent move to Bayer Leverkusen could see Chelsea double the 8 million euros the club paid Genk for his services in Jan. 2012.
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