Mauricio Pochettino has taken over as Tottenham head coach at Chelsea – Getty Images/Darren Walsh
Chelsea have one week to sell the club’s ‘bomb squad’ to avoid the threat of an awkward reunion that could give new head coach Mauricio Pochettino a headache over whether or not to split his players.
While Chelsea have successfully shipped out a number of wantaway players this summer to cut down the squad for Pochettino, there is still work to do.
Deals are yet to be agreed for the sales of Romelu Lukaku, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic – all of whom want to leave Chelsea.
The foursome make up a ‘bomb squad’ of players who the club want to sell before they start to return for pre-season training at Chelsea’s Cobham complex next Wednesday.
Ziyech saw a move to Saudi Arabia stall last week, while Aubameyang and Lukaku have also received offers from Saudi and Pulisic has attracted bids from AC Milan and Lyon.
Pochettino wants to work with players who want to be at the club, which could place him in an awkward position if any of the foursome have to return to pre-season training.
Ideally, Pochettino does not want to take any players who do not want to be at the club on Chelsea’s pre-season tour of America, which the squad leave for on July 17.
That means he would have to decide whether or not to leave anybody at home if Lukaku and Co returned, with sources fearing that a B-team training group could be established for unwanted players who have not clinched a move away.
Lukaku wants to join Inter Milan and is hoping for movement on a deal between the Italians and Chelsea over the next week, while Aubameyang is liked by Steven Gerrard, who has taken over at Saudi club Al Ettifaq and there remains Saudi interest in Ziyech. Pulisic prefers a move to AC Milan over Lyon, but the Serie A giants are yet to agree a fee with Chelsea.
One player who returned to pre-season training under Pochettino on Tuesday is Callum Hudson-Odoi, who has told Chelsea that he wants to leave the club this summer.
Hudson-Odoi spent last season on loan at Bayer Leverkusen and now wants to quit Stamford Bridge, with Fulham and Nottingham Forest among the clubs thought to be interested.
Pochettino, who started work as Chelsea’s head coach on Monday,wasted no time in trying to develop a new culture at Chelsea by hosting a staff barbeque on his first day.
Chelsea staff – football and non-football – were invited to a barbecue to get to know Pochettino and his travelling backroom team.
With players not starting to return until Tuesday, the Argentine took the opportunity to start getting to know his new colleagues.
One staff member said: “It was a great touch and a really good way for the head coach to introduce himself. It was very relaxed.”
Barbecues were a relatively common pre-season and post-season event during Pochettino’s time at Tottenham Hotspur.
He even got a personalised barbecue with the inscription ‘he’s magic, you know’ in honour of the song Spurs fans serenaded him with.
Pochettino puts a huge emphasis on creating and working in a positive atmosphere and environment, and staff meals were a feature of his time at Tottenham.
He also makes a point of giving time to all staff across the club and once turned up unexpectedly at a Southampton end-of-season dinner in honour of a couple of junior members of the recruitment department who were leaving, also picking up the bill.
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