Contract Years

The final year of a player’s contract is always an uncertain time.

If they’ve not been extended before the beginning of the final year of their terms, it’s usually an indication that they may well be on their way come the end of the campaign.

That was the case with Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa at the end of the 2011-12 season and as we embark upon another rollercoaster ride of a season, it’s not too early to look at the players who will either be seeking an extension, or trying to determine their next step away from Stamford Bridge.

Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are as high-profile as it gets but it goes without saying that the club are almost certain to lengthen their stays and both are pretty much nailed on to want to as well.

Florent Malouda and Paulo Ferreira have been reported to be close to committing their immediate futures to the club and Yossi Benayoun close to leaving, whilst backup goalkeepers Ross Turnbull and Hilário will come to decisions during the course of the campaign; the Portuguese has extended his terms by a year in each of the last two campaigns.

That leaves just Daniel Sturridge, perhaps the most intriguing of the group. Having broken into the first team squad and earned a maiden England cap, he’s been more hit than miss since joining Chelsea for £6.5m (now that all possible clauses have been met) but remains inconsistent and, more importantly, apparently unhappy.

Despite protestations that he is first and foremost a centre forward and not a winger, he has been played on the flank for most of his Blues career and has generally done well there. However, he clearly wants to play in a more advanced role and is seemingly keen to discuss a raise to the £65,000 per week he currently earns.

Chelsea are understandably dubious about agreeing to this, and with interest from Arsenal and former club Manchester City, Sturridge’s immediate future is rather uncertain. The interest in Victor Moses is undoubtedly linked to this situation.

On the face of it, allowing a young, talented, home-grown player to depart would be churlish, but there are certainly arguments to be made that cashing in this summer would be in Chelsea’s best interests. It’s one that’s likely to run and be high profile, but a resolution before the end of 2012 is to be expected.

At reserve level, it’s mainly defenders who have some thinking to do. Ben Gordon, now 21, will probably make a permanent departure this summer after proving himself capable in two spells at Kilmarnock, a move which will probably see his reserve team understudy Aziz Deen-Conteh sign up for a few more years and look to further his career on loan.

Rohan Ince and Archange Nkumu will likely see how the first half of the season goes, although Nkumu remains young and is only coming to the end of his first professional deal. Sam Hutchinson’s future will depend on how he progresses through injury, whilst James Ashton was offered new terms earlier this year and will likely confirm a renewal in early July.

That leaves Amin Affane, Milan Lalkovic and Adam Phillip. Affane, like Nkumu, is only a year into a maiden pro deal and having impressed last season, will likely stay for a few more years. Phillip, meanwhile, was granted an extra season after suffering a knee injury last August and will hope for an injury-free campaign to help determine his next step.

As for Lalkovic, he certainly has the talent to warrant an extension and he only turns 20 midway through next season, but if he continues to thrive in the Under-21 team and/or do well on loan, his ambition combined with inevitable interest in him from potential suitors may see a similar situation develop to that of his compatriot Miroslav Stoch, who found the allure of regular top-flight action elsewhere too much to resist.

An interesting twelve months awaits.