Mauricio Pochettino facing huge Thiago Silva decision with leaders vital for Chelsea rebuild

Mauricio Pochettino facing huge Thiago Silva decision with leaders vital for Chelsea rebuild

Mauricio Pochettino faces a huge decision over Thiago Silva’s Chelsea future.

Silva turns 39 in September and it remains unclear whether the Brazilian defender will be around at the start of the Pochettino rebuild next season.

He signed a one-year contract extension in February, which runs to the end of next season, but has been linked with a return to Brazil and a move to Saudi Arabia. Pochettino wants to build a team around a core of young players when he finally takes over at the club.

Silva does not fit the profile of that plan but he has been Chelsea’s best player this season. He is also one of the few leaders in the squad, and his experience has played a key role in the dressing room since he joined in 2020 on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.

Having leaders will be crucial for Pochettino, who needs to reunite a young squad that has become fractured this season. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta could also leave, following the signing of Lyon right-back Malo Gusto, and losing the influence of both him and Silva would leave a gaping hole in the squad.

Decision looming: Mauricio Pochettino must choose whether to keep Thiago Silva at Chelsea (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Decision looming: Mauricio Pochettino must choose whether to keep Thiago Silva at Chelsea (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Silva is also a fan favourite, and it all leaves Pochettino with a major dilemma as he rebuilds the Chelsea defence for next season. The Argentine primarily favours a 4-2-3-1 system, but he will inherit a squad built to play with a three-man defence.

No European football means fewer chances for rotation and Chelsea have six central defenders in their squad, with Silva, Kalidou Koulibaly, Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile and Trevoh Chalobah to be joined by Levi Colwill when he returns from his loan at Brighton.

Colwill looks set to be given a chance to shine next season and neither Badiashile nor Fofana will be sold after signing long-term contracts following big-money moves this season. Chelsea hope to sell Koulibaly back to an Italian side less than a year after signing him, but overseas clubs are reluctant to pay his high wages and the player himself wants to stay to prove himself.

Having leaders will be crucial for Pochettino, who needs to reunite a young squad that has become fractured this season

It leaves Silva and Chalobah, who are both expected to start against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday night, facing uncertain futures. Silva has said he will not push to leave, stating last week: “I only won’t stay here if Chelsea decide they don’t want me for next season, or if the new coach doesn’t want me to stay.”

Ahead of the game against Manchester United, interim Chelsea manager Frank Lampard described Silva as a “special” player with a huge influence at the club.

“Thiago is an inspiration to all the players,” Lampard told Standard Sport. “They could and should learn a lot from him in terms of how he looks after himself off the pitch and how he approaches training daily, what he demands from his team-mates, that’s something that has to rub off more at the minute.

“He leads by example. I think the players who play alongside him understand what the level is and what’s required.

“If you don’t reach them, you will get the look or a talk, but he is not a screamer or a shouter. He is certainly one who demands from people around him, and that’s a good thing because, at this level, you need players like that.

“They’re not everywhere, those players who can say, ‘this is what I’ve done in my career, so I can still do it’. I really like that side of him. He has been special.”

Lampard will make himself available as a sounding board for Pochettino when the Argentine embarks on a mass clear-out of players this summer. Silva might not be a long-term solution, but his experience and leadership mean he surely has a key role to play in helping shape the next generation of the Chelsea defence.