Steve Bruce and Aston Villa were similarly credited with an interest and Goal reported that offers from Premier League sides had been rebuffed due to the player’s concerns over a potential lack of regular first-team opportunities.
Yet another Chelsea player has signed a new contract before heading out on loan, with confirmation that highly-rated midfielder Lewis Baker has signed a new five-year contract before dropping down a division to join Championship promotion favourites Middlesbrough.
While former Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons loanee Baker was initially expected to depart for another two years after spending a couple of seasons with Eredivisie outfit Vitesse Arnhem, Chelsea revealed that the England Under-21 international has moved to the Riverside Stadium on a season-long deal.
Both Jaap Stam’s Reading and Harry Redknapp’s Birmingham City had also hoped to secure a loan agreement for Baker, who was not involved in last weekend’s Community Shield defeat to Arsenal at Wembley.
“It’s going to be an exciting season, there are a lot of games in the Championship,” Baker told Middlesbrough’s official website. “I’m here to give my input and hopefully get the club back to the Premier League. Hopefully we can do that together.
“This opportunity arose and I thought it would be a great one for me. I think in this game there is always high pressure and big things expected. I see this as a great opportunity for me to come here and show what I can do. I already know what the Championship is about. I’m going to give it my all and hopefully we get back to where we should be.”
Academy graduate Baker has made just one senior appearance for Chelsea to date, sent on by Jose Mourinho for the final three minutes of an FA Cup third-round victory at Derby County back in January 2014. He scored 20 goals and provided 11 assists in 73 total outings for Vitesse.
Baker was included in Antonio Conte’s squad for a pre-season tour of the Far East last month after playing a key role in England’s run to the semi-finals of the European Under-21 Championship in Poland and featured as a substitute against both Arsenal and Bayern Munich.
His latest loan exit was delayed following the sales of Nathaniel Chalobah and Nemanja Matic, which, coupled with new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko’s knee injury, leaves N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabreas as Chelsea’s only fit senior central midfielders. The defending Premier League champions are said to be trying to strengthen that vulnerable area further, with the likes of Danny Drinkwater, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley and Sergi Roberto all linked with moves to Stamford Bridge.
Big-spending Middlesbrough made room for Baker by yesterday sanctioning the return of Marten de Roon to Serie A outfit Atalanta after only 14 months. Garry Monk is also hopeful of completing deals for Liverpool winger Sheyi Ojo and Birmingham defender Ryan Shotton as he looks to further bolster his strong squad following the additions of Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite, Ashley Fletcher, Darren Randolph, Jonny Howson and Cyrus Christie.