Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has reportedly singled out Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson and Burnley’s Michael Keane as two long-term replacements for John Terry.
The 35-year-old central defender has made over 700 appearances in all competitions for the Blues, and has continued to play an integral role for them so far this season under his Italian coach.
However, despite re-signing David Luiz this week, Conte has identified the need to find a long-term solution to Terry’s eventual retirement.
According to The Daily Mail, that search has led him to Gibson and Keane, with the report claiming that he wants to maintain the English influence at the heart of the Chelsea defence.
In addition, it’s a situation forced on him to an extent too with homegrown player regulations seeing Chelsea scouts keeping a close eye on British talent for that area of the squad.
Gibson has been with Boro since 2005 after coming through the youth ranks, and was sent out on various loan deals before making his mark at the Riverside Stadium and emerging as a key figure in the team from 2013 onwards.
Having helped them secure promotion to the Premier League, the 23-year-old will be hoping to play an influential role in their bid to avoid the drop this year.
As for Keane, also 23, he came through the Manchester United ranks before joining Burnley on loan initially in 2014, before securing a permanent deal last year.
Similarly to Gibson, he was influential in Sean Dyche’s men securing promotion last season, but he’ll now need to step up and deliver in the top flight too.
Should a move to Stamford Bridge genuinely be on the cards for one of the pair, then they can expect a tough audition over the coming months with Conte undoubtedly set to place great emphasis on getting the right man to step into the breach once Terry decides to call time on his playing career.