Jose Mourinho?s decision to start Chelsea?s opening fixture of the new Premier League season with Thibaut Courtois in goal could lead to the imminent departure of Petr Cech.
The 32-year-old has become part of the fabric at Stamford Bridge, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League. His brilliant goalkeeping was instrumental in securing the Champions League, his penalty saves going down in Chelsea folklore along with Drogba?s equalising goal and winning penalty.
In 2006, Cech suffered a life-threatening head injury during a match against Reading and underwent surgery for a depressed skull fracture. He returned for the Blues the following year, wearing his now trademark skull-cap to protect him from further injury.
While the managers and players have changed, Cech has remained as constant a fixture in the side as John Terry and Frank Lampard. The latter was forced to call time on his Stamford Bridge career this summer and his move to New York City is via Premiership rivals Manchester City who are partnered with the American club.
Courtois has been so impressive during his loan spell with Atletico Madrid that Chelsea exercised their right to recall him to the squad this summer. Had they not done so, it is quite likely that Courtois would have been seeking a permanent transfer. Chelsea were faced with risking losing a young talent or their long-serving keeper and youth was put before experience.
Cech has recently said that he is yet to have a discussion with Mourinho about his future but top European sides are lining up to for his signature. Monaco and PSG are both in the Champions League this season and are expected to declare an interest. A club can get away with rotating outfield players but opportunities are far more restricted for goalkeepers. To have one top class keeper is essential but two is a luxury.
With possibly another five years ahead of him in the game, Cech is far too good a keeper to content himself with the occasional League or FA Cup tie. Mourinho has attempted to calm the waters by citing Chelsea?s exhaustive fixture programme but this is highly unlikely to persuade Cech to stay. He has been Chelsea?s number 1 for a decade and has maintained the highest level of form throughout.
Many expressed surprise, including Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, when Chelsea allowed Juan Mata to leave for rivals Manchester United last season. Mata had been voted Chelsea?s player of the year for the previous two seasons but nobody is indispensable.