Graham Potter says he would understand if Mason Mount decided his career lies away from Chelsea.
Talks about the 24-year-old England midfielder signing a new contract have stalled and his current deal will expire at the end of next season.
The end of the campaign is likely to be the make or break moment for a player who has been at Chelsea since he was at primary school. No agreement by June would almost certainly lead to a summer sale.
“Yes but I am not naive,” said Chelsea manager Potter when asked if he wanted Mount to stay. “I know it is an important time for him and an important contract. These things have to be right for him and his family. It’s important he makes a decision on that basis.
“Ultimately it is between the club and Mason. But I have spoken to him numerous times about his situation, football and life in general.
“My feelings for Mason are clear. He is a fantastic person first, but sometimes these things happen. They are just complicated and it is best that I speak little about it, let them get on with it in deciding what is right for both parties.”
Mount will not feature at Leicester City on Saturday as he has not yet fully recovered from a lower abdomen problem.
It is also true that Mount’s importance to Chelsea has waned since Potter succeeded Thomas Tuchel in September. Potter last opted to start him on Feb 18 in a disastrous home defeat by then-bottom club Southampton. Mount came off the bench in the defeat at Tottenham that followed but then dropped out of the squad as Chelsea recovered to beat Leeds in the Premier League and then Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Mount was suspended for the latter game anyway.
Where could he go?
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham is on Erik ten Hag’s list to improve his midfield options, although he faces a battle with Europe’s top clubs to land him. A world-class No. 9 is also a priority – and therefore likely to take up the bulk of the budget – so Mount is a value for money option.
Dortmund would be unlikely to part with Bellingham for less than £100 million, while Mount, with only 12 months left on his deal, would cost less than half that.
Liverpool, who also covet Bellingham, are in need of a midfield overhaul with Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner likely to leave.
Massimiliano Allegri is said to be an admirer of the 24-year-old and has already moved Weston McKennie on to Leeds in anticipation of a summer revamp.
Mount has seen former Chelsea and England teammate Tammy Abraham make a successful shift to Serie A with Roma, so he will not be short of options for advice.