Chelsea will be without N’Golo Kanté for four months after the midfielder underwent surgery on a hamstring injury on Tuesday.
Kanté, whose hopes of representing France at the World Cup next month are over, has not played since limping off against Tottenham on 14 August. The 31-year-old has struggled with injuries since 2019 and his latest setback will heighten doubts over whether Chelsea intend to offer him a new contract before his deal expires next June.
The issue for Chelsea is whether they can rely on Kanté, even though he is one of their most important players when fit. There have been indications that the club will consider his fitness record during negotiations. That could lead to Chelsea offering a shorter, less lucrative deal.
Rival clubs could look to capitalise, with Kanté free to talk to foreign sides about a pre-contract from 1 January. Paris Saint-Germain have repeatedly been linked with him.
Graham Potter, Chelsea’s head coach, had hoped to have Kanté in action by now but the former Leicester player had a setback in training last week.
Potter can still call upon Jorginho, Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Conor Gallagher, Denis Zakaria and Mateo Kovacic in midfield. However, Chelsea, who visit Brentford on Wednesday evening, have planning issues in midfield. Jorginho is also out of contract next summer and is yet to agree an extension despite holding talks with the club’s hierarchy.
Zakaria is yet to feature for Chelsea since joining on loan from Juventus last month. The Switzerland international will hold talks over his future this week and could cut short his loan in January.
Kanté’s absence is a major blow for Potter, who must cope without a trio of influential players. Reece James, who has been outstanding at right wing-back, is out for eight weeks after damaging knee ligaments and is a huge doubt to play for England at the World Cup finals starting next month. The France defender Wesley Fofana is unlikely to play before the Qatar tournament after sustaining a knee injury this month.