Billy Gilmour and Ross Barkley are among Chelsea stars who face an uncertain first-team future after being left off the club’s squad number list for the new season.
The midfield pair, full internationals for Scotland and England respectively, were joined by the likes of Ethan Ampadu, Kenedy and Michy Batshuayi in being omitted.
Gilmour, an unused substitute in the 2021 Champions League final, was loaned out to Norwich City last season. The 21-year-old’s Chelsea contract was then extended in June of this year to run until the end of the 2023-24 season.
His and 28-year-old Barkley’s first-team prospects at least for the near future look bleak. That was made all the more obvious when the Blues brought in teenage midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka this week, handing the number 30 shirt to the England Under-19 international.
The return of Conor Gallagher from his successful loan at Crystal Palace also means he jumps the midfield queue at Stamford Bridge, taking the number 23 jersey.
Back to the grind. pic.twitter.com/cuJOSEhCcw
— Ross Barkley (@RBarkley8) July 2, 2022
Ampadu, 21, has barely been a factor in Chelsea’s first-team considerations in recent seasons, with the Wales international having loan spells with RB Leipzig, Sheffield United and Venezia.
With Wales qualifying for Qatar 2022, ending a 64-year wait for a World Cup appearance, Ampadu will be eager to see first-team action before November, and that does not look likely at Chelsea.
Belgium striker Batshuayi will also be wanting to play regularly before that tournament, with he and Kenedy looking ripe for loan exits before the transfer window closes on September 1.
Highly rated centre-back Levi Colwill was also absent from the list, which was published on Thursday, although he reportedly could form part of a deal to bring Marc Cucurella to Chelsea from Brighton and Hove Albion.
It was already known that new recruits Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly would take numbers 17 and 26 respectively, with both poised to be fixtures in Thomas Tuchel’s team.
Albanian striker Armando Broja, back from a loan at Southampton, is handed number 18, with the number nine shirt as yet unclaimed after Romelu Lukaku was loaned to Inter.
Chelsea were linked at one stage in the close season with Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United, while more recent speculation has suggested they could be keen on Barcelona’s former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Tuchel’s side begin their Premier League campaign away to Blues hero Frank Lampard’s Everton on Saturday.