Chelsea have been warned they MUST show they can compete for top honours this season to keep the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues could lose both players to Spain this summer, with Hazard linked with replacing Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and Willian wanted by Barcelona.
And former defender Mario Melchiot admits he understands why their star players’ heads have been turned after a tumultuous campaign.
With less than three weeks until the start of the season, Chelsea’s preparations have been rather chaotic.
Antonio Conte was replaced by new boss Maurizio Sarri weeks into their pre-season preparations, while there is uncertainly hanging over a number of their key players.
Hazard hinted following the World Cup that he could leave the Blues, admitting it was “time to discover something different” after six years with the club.
With the Blues only able to offer Europa League football this term, the Belgian – in his prime at 27 – is perhaps thinking he can’t afford to spend a season outside of Europe’s top competition.
Meanwhile, Barcelona are said to have tabled three bids for Brazilian ace Willian, and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois looks likely to Real Madrid too.
Asked if Chelsea can somehow convince their in-demand trio to stay this summer, Melchiot told talkSPORT: “That’s the problem – those guys want to play in the Champions League.
“They want to play in a team that has enough quality to complete to win the Champions League and Premier League titles.
“Clubs like Madrid or Barcelona, they don’t have that problem.
“And as a player, if you’re at a club like Chelsea and you’re playing at the top of the league, you don’t have to worry about it either.
“But when you’re not, that’s when you have to consider it [joining another club].
“By the end of your career you want to win as many trophies as you can and you do whatever it takes to get there.
“Of course you love the club you’re at, but you also have to understand that as a professional football player you are judged by the number of trophies you have in your cabinet.
“When you’re at a top team and you can deliver that, you don’t have to consider other teams, but when the likes of Madrid and Barcelona come they guarantee you play at that level, so it’s almost impossible not to consider it, especially when you are going through a difficult time with the team you’re at now.”