An army! That’s right, it can be called a young yet gigantic army. It might be a blessing in disguise for many years to come but as of now, many might find it ridiculous that Chelsea have a mammoth number of players on loan.
The Chelsea loan structure has a total of 26 players, belonging to 14 different countries with a total value of over 100 million pounds. Some of them have played for Chelsea before, and some haven’t. Some of them might never make it to the first team. That is Chelsea’s loan army in a nutshell.
Today, we’ll be analyzing the five best Chelsea loanees this season, and try to predict what is in store for them at the Bridge, and whether or not they will ever play for Chelsea.
(1) Mario Pasalic
Mario Pasalic is a Croatian international, who signed for Chelsea at the beginning of the 2014-15 season for a fee of around 3 million pounds. He spent a few days training with the first team before he was shipped off to Elche, in the Spanish La Liga. A box-to-box midfielder, Pasalic scored 11 goals and assisted 5 in the Croatian first division in the previous season. He also got selected for the Croatia’s initial 30-man roster for the World Cup, but couldn’t make the final first team.
Pasalic has made 34 appearances for Elche this season, scoring three goals in the process. With over 2300 minutes under his belt, he has established himself in the first team of La Liga’s mid-table languishers. Already blessed with good passing skills and vision, Pasalic had to improve his defensive skills. In his own words, he is enjoying the challenges ahead of him,
“I would love to score my first goal here, but I know I won’t get much of a chance. The team plays defensively. We have to fight for every point, and it’s difficult to push forward if you’re a defensive midfielder. You’re basically running the entire game just to keep the opposition away from your goal. Every match is a battle. There is a struggle for survival.”
Immediate Future: It is certain that Pasalic will return to Chelsea, a much better all round player. But it remains to be seen if he’ll be in Jose’s plans next season. Being just 20 years old, he is most likely to be loaned to another club next season.
Long Term Future: The highly talented youngster has been tipped to be a potential Chelsea player after two or three seasons. But for now, he needs to concentrate on getting first team football and gaining some much-needed experience.
(2) Oriol Romeu
Oriol Romeu, a graduate from FC Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, was signed by Chelsea in the summer of 2011. After staying with the first team under Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo, Jose Mourinho sent him on loan to Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga.
Having struggled in his loan to Valencia in the previous season, he has had a comparatively good loan at Stuttgart, playing 27 games for the German lower-mid-table team. His overall defensive game has also improved, besides his passing game, which is only getting better. He has had a passing percentage of more than 83% with almost 50 completed passes every game. Also, he has made almost four interceptions per game; adding evidence to his defensive nous.
Immediate Future: Romeu too, will return a much better player, but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be a part of the first team next season. Since Ruben Loftus Cheek has become Jose’s pet project, and the presence of Matic and Mikel above him in the pecking order, we might see another Bundesliga/Premier League loan for him, and assess the situation next summer.
Long Term Future: Romeu signed a contract extension of 3 years for Chelsea this season. Also, he has been regularly speaking to Eddie Newton, Chelsea’s Technical Coach for Youth Development. This shows that Chelsea still see him as a future first team prospect. Moreover, it is also reported that Stuttgart have shown interest in making the deal permanent, and the player himself saying a few words:
“In June I’ll speak with Chelsea to know their intentions. After two seasons on loan, the ideal would be settling into a club to get some stability. Every player needs continuity.”
(3) Mohamed Salah
Signed by Jose after consistently good performances against Chelsea, Mohamed Salah became a non-starter at the beginning of the season, and pretty much a good example of mediocrity when selected. This led to his loan deal to Florentina in Serie A in the winter transfer window.
It is unclear if it’s the weather or the traditional pizzas, but Salah has been far better in Italy, notching up 9 goals already in half a season from just 19 appearances for the club. He even managed a run of 5 goals in 4 games. His main advantage has been the slow nature of the Serie A and his direct fast pace, which means he can ghost past his opponents easily, with him getting more space there too. He has also become sort of a cult leader at the Italian club, with a restaurant even naming a pizza after him.
Immediate Future: His loan is set to go until the end of next season. Meanwhile, Salah too his thinking about his future and had the following to say:
“I still have one month to make a decision about my future. I’m enjoying being here.”
Long Term Future: It doesn’t look like Chelsea will give him another chance, unless he becomes a great player over the course of next season. Reports have already emerged that Chelsea might move on and sell him while his value is still high. The club is asking 18 million pounds for the Egyptian, according to The Telegraph. So it is more or less clear that Salah might end up at Florentina, and his long-term future will surely not be at Stamford Bridge.
(4) Bertrand Traore
Bertrand Traore signed for the Blues on the opening day of the winter transfer window of 2014. The Burkinabé footballer didn’t have enough international appearances to get a work permit in the UK and was therefore loaned to Vitesse. This season, his loan was extended and has been a success.
This season, he scored 13 goals in 28 appearances and has been a major reason for Vitesse’s qualification for the Europa League playoffs. Traore is a quick, agile striker, whose main style of play is running behind the defense, and shooting invariably. He has been praised by many as a player having the potential to have an elite career. The manager of Vitesse has the following to say about the starlet,
“I like how Traore progresses. I see it every day. Sometimes it is even better in training and is usually good in matches. I think he has the potential to be a great player. He has a refined technique, and he sees the game as fast as others. This is what it takes to succeed.”
Immediate Future: With him still not getting a work permit, he might return to Vitesse or go on loan to a bigger league in terms of quality, like La Liga or The Bundesliga. It is pretty much certain that he won’t be returning to England next season. When asked about his future, the youngster had the following to say,
“I enjoy Vitesse. I’m learning every day and am part of a great group. I play, I create goals. Anything is possible. I am still young, and I won’t rule out a longer stay in Arnhem. I love the Netherlands. It is quiet here. I don’t like crowds. I live in Oosterbeek. Boring? No, the people are nice. I can concentrate on football.”
However, the forward did go on to say that the decision over his future will ultimately rest with Chelsea. He said:
“If I stay in the summer, it has to be up to Chelsea. Like the other Chelsea players, I occasionally get a visit and there is regular contact by telephone. Then, I hear what is going well and what could be improved. I do not regret my choice of Vitesse. I have learned a lot from the coaches and players. I think this is my best season so far.”
Long Term Future: Jose Mourinho sees Traore as ‘one of the finest talents of his generation’. He even suggested that Traore would have been in the first team if it weren’t for the work permit issues. This clearly shows that his long-term future is bright, and he can become a Chelsea player in a couple of seasons. We tend to forget this, but he’s only 19, and can only improve.
(5) Patrick Bamford
Patrick Bamford has undoubtedly been Chelsea’s star loanee this season. The Middlesbrough man signed for Chelsea in the 2012-13 season. He was due to stay in the first team for the same season but was sent to Aitor Karanka’s team as Didier Drogba was recalled to the Bridge. He made 43 appearances for the Boroughs, and scored 19 goals and assisted 7 times, which made him the Football League Championship’s player of the season, voted by his peers over at the Championship.
A prolific striker, tall and can play as the target man and as the direct poacher-finisher, Bamford has recently reaffirmed his Chelsea commitment by saying,
“I don’t have any reason not to be at Chelsea. It is my dream to put on that blue shirt and play for them eventually. However, after two years regularly playing out on loan, going back and sitting on the bench wouldn’t really help me.”
Immediate Future: Bamford has proved to the world that he is too good for the Championship. It is most likely that he’ll either come back to Chelsea to replace Drogba or stay at Middlesbrough if they progress to the Premier League next season. Meanwhile, Southampton and Newcastle have reportedly shown interest in taking the young Englishman on loan for a season.
Long Term Future: Chelsea has handed him a bumper new deal, in an attempt to lure the starlet to sign a contract extension. It has also been reported that an informal agreement is also in place. With his deal coming to an end in 2017, it looks a bit insecure but is almost certain that everything will be sorted out over in the summer.
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