Chelsea have had a season beyond the expectations of any in football under the stewardship of their impassioned manager Antonio Conte during his first season of Premier League football.
The blues are flying high, seven points clear at the top of the table and with a firm grip on the trophy they last one just two seasons ago. Furthermore an FA Cup semi-final with London rivals Tottenham means that a league and cup double is still well on the cards.
One thing which has given Chelsea an advantage over their domestic competitors this season is their lack of European commitments. In finishing 10th last season, unlike the three other FA Cup semi-finalists, as well as four of the five in the chasing pack in the league, the Blues had just the Premier League, EFL Cup and FA Cup on their plate this season, meaning a more settled and injury free squad could go about their business in top form.
That is not to take anything away from Conte & Co. but it certainly helps.
With that in mind, there will need to be some gearing up done over the summer as the west Londoners prepare for the return of the Champions League to Stamford Bridge. Conte has time and again reiterated that his burning desire to impress on the European stage with this Chelsea side as well as back at home, exciting times indeed lie ahead for those Blues fans.
With summer signings on the horizons the names are beginning to crop up in the press day-after-day, however, this summer could be a slightly different one for the champions elect.
Despite the success of the club in recent years, there are few ready made stars who spring to mind having signed at Stamford Bridge, no Ibrahimovic’s, Pogba’s or Ozil’s to speak of here, just your odd Cesc Fabregas every now and then.
The fact is that Chelsea have made stars of their own, taking Eden Hazard from Lille and turning him into one of the best attacking players in the game right now.
The honest truth is that regardless of their Champions League win and multiple Premier League titles, Chelsea were not quite on the level of Manchester United and Arsenal in terms of attraction to international stars, however, that could all have changed with the arrival of Conte.
Managers like Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola can be huge bargaining chips when looking to get a deal done, but they’re spikey personalities, get on the wrong side of them and that’s it – done – career over. However, when you look at Conte, or by comparison Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, on the sideline, who wouldn’t want to work with that?
The former Juventus manager’s passion and drive is infections. Combine a Premier League title, his European ambitions and a few more dugout swings and Chelsea could well be at the biggest of big boy tables in Europe this summer.