The Blues will reward captain Gary Cahill for his six years of service to the club by allowing him to leave on loan in January and effectively bring an end to his Stamford Bridge career.
Chelsea’s captain is out of contract at the end of the season and will leave on a free transfer, but the club will take the unusual step of letting him go on loan before then in the next transfer window.
The club are willing to make an exception for Cahill because of his achievements.
Having joined Chelsea in January 2012 from Bolton Wanderers, Cahill has won the Champions League, the Europa League, two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and the League Cup with the Blues – making him one of the most successful players in the club’s history.
But, despite holding on to the captaincy, the 32-year-old has dropped down the pecking order since Maurizio Sarri’s arrival as head coach and was not even on the substitutes’ bench for the draw with Everton.
Cahill’s availability will alert a host of clubs at home and abroad. West Ham United and Southampton were interested during the summer, while new Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri is likely to try to sign a new defender. The former England international’s former club Aston Villa could also try to tempt him to the Championship.
Back in September, Cahill admitted he may have to leave Chelsea in January and likened his situation to goalkeeper Petr Cech, who joined Arsenal after being forced out of the team by Thibaut Courtois.
Cahill has been involved more since then, but letting him go will allow Chelsea to save money on their wage bill and also try to keep Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu happy.
Christensen has already made it clear that he is not satisfied with a rotating role on the bench with Cahill, behind first-choice pair David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger, while highly-rated 18-year-old Ampadu has struggled for opportunities.
Asked this week if his future is away from Chelsea, Christensen replied: “Difficult question. No, I don’t think so.
“Things are different from last season. I played a lot of games but this season it hasn’t been like that. It’s always difficult for a player but we’ll see what happens.
“If you asked every player that’s not playing if they’re happy, they’re going to say ‘no’. Everyone wants to play.
“I can’t do anything else but go back there, train and do my best. Every time I get that opportunity, I have to do well and show him (Sarri) that he can count on me.
“You don’t want to sit around and wait for it. You want to play straight away and that’s why we all play football.”
Sarri recently stated that he hoped Cahill stayed in January and pointed to his influence in the dressing-room as a reason for keeping him as captain, but the club have agreed he can go on loan ahead of his permanent departure at the end of the season.
Cesar Azpilicueta has been Chelsea’s on-pitch captain this season and that is likely to continue once Cahill leaves, with a more permanent decision on the skipper likely to wait until next summer.
Chelsea are waiting to see whether or not Eden Hazard will stay and sign a new contract, and the Belgian could eventually be given the armband if he does.
Asked in September whether he could leave Chelsea in January, Cahill said: “I don’t want to jump the gun but as things stand, probably yes. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions. I did that when I was at Villa all those years ago. If I had been patient maybe I would’ve played in that first team but I wanted to take the decision to go and play regularly. As it is, I’m not enjoying things. That’s just me.”