Despite enduring a torrid season, Chelsea remains one of the most famous clubs in world football, with many of its stars set to take the stage during this summer’s European Championships.
Here, we look at three Chelsea stars who are set to play pivotal roles for their countries in France.
A man who struggled throughout last season with a number of niggling injuries and some unconvincing displays, Courtois has failed to emerge from the shadow of Petr Cech, who left Chelsea for Arsenal in the summer. Whilst no-one can doubt the Belgian’s ability, Courtois has yet to show the sort of consistency with Chelsea that he was able to maintain in three remarkable years at Atletico Madrid.
With question marks over his Stamford Bridge future remaining, Courtois recently went on record to say that he prefers playing behind the defence of his national side to a back four consisting of John Terry and company. Now is the time to put that to the test as the Belgians look to emerge from a tough group that includes Antonio Conte’s Italy, Sweden, and the Republic of Ireland.
An obvious contender, the 2015 PFA Player of the Year finished the season in superb fashion, despite doing little for much of the campaign. Finishing with six goals to his name, most of which in the final weeks of the Premier League season (including unforgettable goals against both Tottenham and Liverpool), the Belgian wing wizard has taken that run of goalscoring form into international football as well, scoring a crucial equalising goal in a 3-2 friendly win over Norway.
Hazard showed glimpses of his old self in the final throes of last season, and having been installed as captain of the Belgian national side, the player will need to show greater responsibility on the pitch – something that should help his game. For all the talk surrounding Belgium’s supposed “golden generation”, they have made precious little impression in competitive tournaments in recent years. Now is the time for them to show what they are made of, and Hazard – for many, when on form, the third-best player in the world – will need to be their leading light.
A left-field choice admittedly, but Chelsea’s sole member of the English contingent could play the most important role of all in an extremely young and inexperienced squad. With more than 40 caps to his name, Cahill has been part of the spine of the England side for the past three seasons, and is one of only three centre-backs to have been named in the side by Roy Hodgson.
With John Stones and Chris Smalling being more proactive in their style of defending and often opting to carry the ball out from the back, Cahill fits the mould of being a more archetypal, no-nonsense, classic English central defender. Hodgson loves to field contrasting pairs, and it would not come as a surprise to see Cahill play alongside either Stones or Smalling.
But in a defence likely to also consist of Kyle Walker (16 caps), Smalling (25 caps) and Danny Rose (4 caps), Cahill is the elder statesman and leader of that back four – not forgetting that he is also Hodgson’s vice-captain! Furthermore, looking at the squad numbers for the tournament, and, given the FA’s love affair with the tradition of playing numbers 1-11, the fact Cahill is donning his usual number 5 shirt in the tournament could be another clue suggesting a heavy involvement for the Chelsea man this summer.