Chelsea's neglected £58m transfer issue holds key to Enzo Maresca's next move

Romeo Lavia has had a frustrating start to his Chelsea career. There were high hopes for the 20-year-old when he joined from Southampton in a deal worth £58million last August.

The midfielder signed a seven-year contract at Stamford Bridge and although he was seen as one for the future, Mauricio Pochettino believed he could challenge Moises Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez and Conor Gallagher for a place in Chelsea's midfield. Injuries prevented that from happening, however, with Lavia missing most of the campaign due to injury.

Hamstring, thigh and ankle injuries meant Lavia appeared only once for the Blues during the 2023/24 season, coming off the bench and playing 32 minutes against Crystal Palace in December. He only made the bench one other time so Chelsea supporters have not really had the chance to see their No.45 in action.

Lavia opened up on his first season in west London in March, describing the period as "frustrating". He said on Instagram: "As you may know and despite my countless efforts, I will be missing the remainder of the season.

"This has been a frustrating season for me, not being able to help my team-mates. I love this squad, this badge and being on the pitch more than anything. Trust that I have given my all every day to get back.

"Thank you for the love, support and critics because they all affect me positively and keep me going. I can’t wait to give it back and share many special moments together. See you soon."

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Chelsea chiefs believe Lavia will come good. He was purchased with the future in mind and it's possible he still has a big career at Stamford Bridge.

"We are very pleased to welcome Romeo to Chelsea," said co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said after the midfielder's signing was announced. "He demonstrated his quality in the Premier League last season at Southampton, showing maturity despite his young age, and is a player we have monitored for some time. We believe he is ready to make an impact at Chelsea throughout the current campaign, and in the coming years."

After going abroad earlier this month, Lavia was pictured working hard in the gym and doing ball work inside as he steps up his return to fitness. The midfielder will want to hit the ground running under new head coach Enzo Maresca, with pre-season training starting in the coming weeks.

With the likes of Gallagher, Fernandez and Caicedo currently with their countries at Euro 2024 and Copa America, Lavia could be handed plenty of minutes throughout pre-season should he remain fit. If Maresca likes the look of the former Southampton man, then Lavia will be like a new signing for Chelsea for the 2024/25 campaign given he hardly played last season.

Lavia just needs to ensure he remains fit, though, and if he does Maresca will have a tough decision to make regarding who he starts in Chelsea's midfield. The Blues kick off the campaign against Manchester City on August 18 and Lavia will want to do all he can to try and make the starting line-up.