Chelsea supporters were left licking their lips after Euro 2016 gave us a glimpse of what the next season could hold at Stamford Bridge, with some key figures going on to gain redemption in a triumphant 2016/17 with the Blues.

In some ways, Euro 2016 provided a snapshot of the modern Chelsea, with the newly expanded 24-team tournament meaning there were several Blues in action in France over the summer. This time, though, it was not the England side which held the most interest. Gary Cahill was our sole representative with the Three Lions, while Spain had three members of our cosmopolitan squad in their ranks.

However, it was also a look into the club’s future. Some important figures for our upcoming success were on display in France in 2016, and did plenty to whet Blues’ fans appetites ahead of seeing them in action at Stamford Bridge.

Blues at Euro 2016

Michy Batshuayi
Thibaut Courtois
Eden Hazard

Gary Cahill

N’Golo Kante

Cesar Azpilicueta
Cesc Fabregas

Part of that came from a resurgent Belgium, who had qualified for the European Championship for the first time since 1984 – also in France – although they did appear in 2000 as co-hosts, when they became the first home nation to go out in the first round.

There were already plenty of eyes on existing Blues Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard, the latter captaining the Red Devils at Euro 2016. There were even more when it emerged that striker Michy Batshuayi had undergone a medical at Belgium’s team camp in France, ahead of a transfer from Marseille to Chelsea.

Similarly, there were widespread rumours that French midfielder N’Golo Kante, hero of Leicester City’s shock Premier League title win, would soon swap the King Power Stadium for the Bridge, although his move wasn’t officially completed until six days after the tournament.

It didn’t end there, either. Chelsea may not have had any players in the Italy squad at this tournament, but manager Antonio Conte had already announced back in April that he would step down at the end of Euro 2016 to sit in the Stamford Bridge dug-out, meaning for many supporters this tournament would provide a first proper look at the what to expect in 2016/17.

Given that much of the Italian media had already written this Italy side off before they arrived in France, being labelled by some as the weakest squad the country had ever taken to a major tournament, having struggled to replace the aging 2006 World Cup winners, not much was expected.

Conte found a way, though. By the time his now familiar back three and flying wing-backs had set out their stall, Italy were through to the last 16 with a game to spare, after back-to-back wins over Sweden and much-fancied Belgium.

Thankfully, Belgium recovered with two wins of their own to make sure that wasn’t the end of Hazard, Courtois and Batshuayi’s tournament, while Spain and France both made fairly short work of their own groups.

For the fourth side with a Chelsea influence, though, there were early signs that England were not going to be able to replicate the form that gave them qualifying’s only 100 per cent record when it came to the tournament itself, limping through in second place in a group featuring Wales, Russia and Slovakia.

Their difficulties were soon confirmed when they suffered a shock last-16 exit at the hands of Iceland. It was particularly hard on Cahill, who had excelled during that impressive qualifying campaign and had missed the previous Euros after fracturing his jaw in the final warm-up friendly.

At least his future at Chelsea was looking bright, as earlier the same day the world had got to see just how effective Conte’s methods could be. His Italy team had put on an absolute tactical masterclass in Paris to counter the threat of Spain – winners of the last two European Championships – and progress with a 2-0 victory.

They eventually exited the tournament in a lengthy penalty shootout with Germany in the quarters, but Conte had already impressed with what he had managed to achieve with the players at his disposal.

The Belgians had also impressed by that point, when Hazard set-up soon-to-be Chelsea team-mate Batshuayi before finding the net himself in a 4-0 victory over Hungary, who had been a whisker away from eliminating Portugal in their last group game.

Like Italy, Belgium’s competition would end in the last eight, though. Despite Hazard getting another assist for the opening goal, they would eventually be defeated by the tournament’s surprise package Wales.

That just left hosts France for Chelsea fans to root for, although a tactical shift to 4-4-2 meant the incoming Kante appeared less frequently as the tournament progressed, even if they also had another man who would go on to play a key role in Blues success in the future, Olivier Giroud.

There was no need for the late goals which had become France’s trademark during the group stage, as they cruised past the Republic of Ireland, Iceland and Germany to reach the final.

The were heavy favourites going into that decisive match in the Paris suburbs, not far from where Kante first learned to kick a ball, facing a Portugal side who had defied logic by going all the way to the final, despite only winning one of their six matches in 90 minutes.

France boss Didier Deschamps – himself a former Chelsea midfielder – opted to leave Kante on the bench at the Stade de France, which left many who had witnessed his incredible performances for Leicester wondering what could have been if N’Golo had been included. As it was, Portugal did it again, holding on for a 0-0 draw before finding a winning goal in extra time.

One consolation for Chelsea fans was the sight of old Stamford Bridge favourite Ricardo Carvalho, now aged 38, finally getting to lift the trophy, 12 years after being on the receiving end of the biggest of final upsets, when hosts Portugal were beaten by Greece in 2004, during his days as a Blue.

That was just one reason the Stamford Bridge faithful were smiling at the end of Euro 2016, though. Kante’s performances had reinforced the impression from his incredible season at Leicester that he would be an excellent addition to the Chelsea midfield, Batshuayi’s impact off the bench suggested he could add depth to our attacking options.

Add in the sight of Conte’s relentless Italy outsmarting, outfighting and ultimately exposing and exploiting the weaknesses of the all-conquering Spanish, and it all led to a feeling of optimism for the Blues’ upcoming campaign.

It wasn’t misplaced. Conte’s back-three-based tactical plan soon took the Premier League by storm as we raced away into a healthy lead by the second half of the season, Kante flooded the internet with memes about him covering every blade of grass on the planet, and then up-popped Batshuayi from the bench in the decisive match away at West Bromwich Albion to score the goal which sealed our status as 2016/17 Premier League champions.

The icing on the cake for the Chelsea supporters of an English persuasion was redemption for Cahill, lifting the trophy into the air, having captained the Blues for the majority of the season as John Terry’s long Blues career approached its end.

There was even more redemption to come. By the time the next international tournament rolled around in the form of the 2018 World Cup, Kante was an indispensable member of France’s midfield, with his new Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud leading the line.

After losing a home final in 2016 without Kante, with him they were crowned world champions. Notably, Giroud later claimed it was the pain of 2016 which directly led to the 2018 triumph, and no doubt there is truth in that, but a certain Chelsea midfielder from the suburbs of Paris had more than a little to do with it too.