Chelsea already have Thiago Silva replacement lined up but he has not played this season

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Thiago Silva;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Thiago Silva</a> applauds fans after defeat during the Emirates FA Cup Semi Final match between <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Manchester City;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Manchester City</a> and <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chelsea;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chelsea</a> at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by ) -Credit:Julian Finney/Getty Images

Sunday, May 19 is going to be an emotional day. Thiago Silva will play his final game for Chelsea in the Blues' last game of the 2023/24 season at home to Bournemouth.

The Brazilian defender announced last week he will move on from Stamford Bridge after almost four years with the west London club with his contract expiring at the end of next month. It will mark the end of an era for Chelsea and Silva, who have won three major honours together, including that 2021 UEFA Champions League trophy.

The 39-year-old, despite being the most senior player in the squad – and by quite some margin, too – has played 3225 minutes in all competitions for Chelsea this season and has been an integral part of their defence. So even though there is a huge sentimental value attached to Silva departing the club, there are footballing reasons to why Chelsea need to replace the former Paris Saint-Germain defender.

The Blues, understands, have looked at centre-back options out there for around 12 months now. The likes of Ousmane Diomande has been scouted, as has Jean-Clair Todibo, although interest in the latter seems to have cooled somewhat in recent times.

But Chelsea may not need to look too far away for the ideal replacement for the departing Silva. Wesley Fofana, the centre-back signed in August 2022 for an initial £70million, has not played a single minute of competitive football this season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament prior to the club's pre-season tour of the United States last summer.

The 23-year-old has had a torrid time with injuries in his short professional career thus far. When at Leicester City, Fofana suffered a fibula fracture during a pre-season friendly match with Villarreal. The Frenchman would go on to miss almost eight months with the serious injury.

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This time around, he has already been sidelined for nine months. Unfortunately for Chelsea supporters, they have only been able to see Fofana get on the pitch 22 times since joining the club for a big-money transfer in 2022. He has made 17 appearances in the Premier League, while featuring five times in the Champions League campaign that ended at the quarter-final stage last season for the Blues.

There is no denying the abundance of talent Fofana has at his disposal. When signing the Frenchman from the Foxes, Chelsea would already have been planning for life post-Silva given his age but it is really unfortunate how it has panned out thus far.

Silva is going to be a huge miss for Chelsea – there is no doubt about that. On the pitch, of course, because his brilliance and intelligence remains strong even though he turns 40 this year. But off the pitch is perhaps where Chelsea will miss him most.

In a strikingly young and inexperienced squad, having a figurehead like Silva in there has helped. When Fofana does return, and hopefully it will be in time for pre-season this summer, the Frenchman needs to step up on the pitch and off of it, too, to really stamp his authority in this Chelsea squad. And kickstart what has been a career full of ups and downs for the defender.