Chelsea are to reward their captain, Gary Cahill, for six years of fine service with a loan in January to secure more regular first-team football in a move which will effectively bring the curtain down on his career at Stamford Bridge.
The former England centre-half is out of contract next summer and will depart on a free, with Chelsea, who normally insist their players sign new deals before sanctioning a loan in order to protect their value, making an exception for the 32-year-old. That is a reflection of his achievements since joining from Bolton for £7m in January 2012. Cahill, capped 61 times, has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup, a Champions League and a Europa League over a glittering career at the club.
However, he has found himself out of favour under Maurizio Sarri and, having played only 21 minutes in the Premier League this term, was not included among the substitutes for Sunday’s draw against Everton. He had made clear his frustration in September when asked if he could leave mid-season. “I don’t want to jump the gun but, as things stand, probably yes,” he said at the time. “Sometimes you have to make tough decisions. As it is, I’m not enjoying things.”
Sarri has praised Cahill’s influence in the dressing room, and retained him as first-team captain for all that César Azpilicueta has effectively become the on-field captain. Yet Chelsea are increasingly conscious that Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu, young players who have also found themselves on the fringes, are growing frustrated at a lack of game time. By permitting Cahill his mid-season move, that pair may be appeased as they shift slightly up the pecking order.
Southampton, West Ham and Fulham, now under the stewardship of Claudio Ranieri, may seek to keep Cahill in the Premier League, while his first club, Aston Villa, where John Terry, a former central defensive partner, is assistant manager, could offer an opportunity to excel in the Championship. It remains to be seen whether there will be interest from abroad.