Chelsea ended the season as Premier League champions after an enigma of a year in 2015/16, having been the champions in the season prior.

Now, Antonio Conte will be looking to reinforce his squad to not only win the league again but to also compete in the Champions League.

A lot of the focus has been on Chelsea’s next striker, with Diego Costa heavily linked with a move to China. Names like Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Morata have been thrown into the equation if the Spanish brute does move on, but there’s another pressing matter for Conte to resolve.

As it stands, Chelsea are going be down two centre-backs on what they started with last season. Veterans Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry have left the club, with their places needing a player to fill in by the start of the next campaign. Neither featured very often for the Blues once they got into the swing of the new regime, but the team will need to strengthen to battle on all fronts in 2017/18.

With Gary Cahill, David Luiz, and often Cesar Azpilicueta working so well in a back three for Chelsea, Antonio Conte likely isn’t looking to splash out on a big-name centre back to take one of those three places. Kurt Zouma’s ready and waiting to make a push for a first team place, but is reportedly available for loan.

If the Frenchman were to spend a season out on loan, Chelsea would have very few options at centre back should one of their starters pick up an injury. The Blues need backup, and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson could be the perfect solution for that.

Playing all 38 of Middlesbrough’s Premier League games last season, 24-year-old English centre-back Ben Gibson proved himself to be a reliable defender and be one of top-flight calibre. He was a strong presence for the now-relegated club, even earning himself the captain’s armband for much of the season.

Gibson’s pace, anticipation, strength, and clean tackling caught the eye of many top clubs in the Premier League because so many are in need of reinforcements at the back: particularly Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Manchester United. These teams need first-team help, and Gibson may not be up to that task just yet, but playing in rotation at a top club could help further his development into a future starter.

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Chelsea currently lead the charge to get Middlesbrough’s prized centre-back, coming in as the 15/8 favourites with Paddy Power, and it’s very rare that the Blues miss their man – case and point, getting Eden Hazard to join them over Manchester United.

Gibson would be a great fit for Chelsea, and could develop in a similar way to which Gary Cahill has – who transferred in from Bolton Wanderers five years ago – but the real question is; will Middlesbrough sell? Owner Steve Gibson – Ben Gibson’s uncle – has been adamant that the club wants to keep their defender, but Championship-bound teams and players can rarely resist the enticing fees put forth by elite clubs.

If Chelsea want Gibson, they will almost certainly get him, and he’ll be a great fit for the team with their busy schedule next season and as he develops in the campaigns to come.