Chelsea's forgotten £75m man could ignite dream partnership amid Murillo transfer interest

Nottingham Forest centre-back Murillo
-Credit: (Image: Stephen White - CameraSport)

Almost two years on from the day he signed for Chelsea, Wesley Fofana faces a defining season at Stamford Bridge.

Back in August 2022, the Blues paid £70million plus £5million in add-ons for the Leicester City centre-back. Spending two years at the King Power Stadium, Fofana quickly established himself as a favourite among supporters with his aggression, defensive ability and his speed.

It was no surprise Chelsea were in for him. There was, however, a bit of a shock regarding the transfer fee. £75million, the figure it should eventually rise to as long as some clauses are met in his contract, for a player relatively unproven and inexperienced - and, crucially, a defender coming back from a serious, long-term injury.

In August 2021, just over 12 months before Chelsea ended up signing him, Fofana broke his leg in Leicester's pre-season friendly against Villarreal. The injury kept him out for over seven months and he missed the majority of the 2021/22 season for the Foxes.

Chelsea, though, were already well aware of the special talent Leicester had on their hands. But to pay so much money for a player that had barely recovered, just a few months after he made his comeback, was a big gamble.

Unfortunately, and to no fault of his own, such a gamble has not paid off for Chelsea. The 23-year-old has played just 22 times for the Blues in all competitions, with 17 appearances in the Premier League and five in the Champions League.

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Disaster struck for the Frenchman almost 12 months to the day when the defender ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament, meaning he did not travel with the rest of the squad for Chelsea's pre-season tour of the United States.

Fofana was consequently sidelined for the entirety of the 2023/24 season and did not play a single match under the now-departed Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine's successor, Enzo Maresca, will be hoping to have better fortune with the French defender, though, and sources told towards the end of the 23/24 campaign that the club were hopeful of Fofana playing some part in the Blues' upcoming pre-season.

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In the left centre-back position, Chelsea already have the hugely talented Levi Colwill and Benoit Badiashile and understands the club have expressed an interest in Nottingham Forest's left-footed defender Murillo this summer. On the right, though, the options are limited at Stamford Bridge.

At the moment, Maresca has Trevoh Chalobah and Axel Disasi to choose from on that side. Chalobah is up for sale with the club open to offers for the 24-year-old this summer as they look to abide with the Premier League's Profitability and Sustainability Rules (PSR).

Alfie Gilchrist is another option to play at the heart of the Chelsea back-line. The 20-year-old, though, predominantly played as a right-back during his stint with the first-team last season under Pochettino. And, as reported earlier in the month, the Blues are considering loaning Gilchrist out ahead of the new season with several Championship clubs keeping an eye on his situation.

It is an enormous season coming up for Fofana, who has almost become the forgotten man at Chelsea. He will be hoping he can get some fitness under his belt this summer before the real action begins in August. So many questions have been asked over the big fee Chelsea paid for him almost two years ago and he can answer his critics in the 2024/25 campaign and kick-start a new era at Stamford Bridge.