Alok Kulkarni has a look at Chelsea’s loan policy and some of those youngsters that deserve to eventually make that move into the senior team.
When one speaks of Chelsea and its abundance of riches, one might be forgiven for thinking about their billionaire owner. The real abundance, however, is the huge reserve of players they have on their payroll. About 50 players playing across Europe are currently “Chelsea players” but inevitably due to Premier League squad restrictions and strict FFP guidelines from UEFA, most of them (26) are out on loan from the club.
Some might believe that this is a clever way of finding a loophole with FFP, but as we all know balancing the books is as tough – if not tougher – as balancing a football on your forehead. The benefit of this system, though, is for the players too. With an established first fifteen from which Jose Mourinho likes to pick his senior team, the chances of them breaking through are rare. The loan system allows them to get regular first-team football along with the motivation that if they do perform well, they will finally put the blue shirt of Chelsea on.
The downside to this, of course, is that some of the players get lost in the crowd – case in point being Josh McEachran. The English midfielder who was being touted as the “next Frank Lampard” has unfortunately been sent out on loan too many times for that to happen.
There are however a couple of individuals who will make that transformation into the first-team, taking full benefit of Chelsea’s loan policy. Given the sheer number of players that have been acquired through this policy, it would be fair to expect some just won’t be seen in the first team at Stamford Bridge ever. But of those 26, there are a few that particularly stand-out given their past displays and Mourinho’s system of playing football.
Another Hazard in London
If ever there was a right usage for the term “football running through their veins”, the Hazard family of Belgium would be a prime example. All of the Hazard family, including mom and dad, have played/ are playing professionally in leagues around Europe. His decorated older brother, Eden, is the one everyone knows about, but if footballing pundits are to be believed, Thorgan might just win this sibling rivalry in the near future.
An immensely talented footballer, Thorgan Hazard signed for Chelsea in July 2012 – a month after Eden signed for the Blues. All of 19 and having little experience playing at the top level, he was immediately sent out on loan to Zulte Waregem in his home country. After an impressive first year in which he influenced the team’s play as an attacking midfielder, he soon became the first name on the team sheet. An extension to his loan spell at Zulte meant that he was fast establishing himself as a player to watch out for.
An astounding season followed in 2013-14 in which he made 53 appearances for the Belgian Pro League club, scoring 17 goals and an impressive 20 assists overall. The club finished second in the League, just two points behind Anderlecht. He became the crowd favourite and it came as no surprise when he was voted the club’s player of the year.
Currently on loan at the Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, it is expected that he will relish his role there too; the reason being the German side’s penchant for attacking football. An average of 3.05 goals per game in the Bundesliga (higher than the Premier League) means that the disparity between other clubs and perennial table-toppers Bayern Munich seems to be reducing. It will only help Thorgan develop his game more and hopefully for him, be as successful – if not more – as Eden.
Denied by work permit issues, thus far
Having been on Chelsea’s books since he was 15, Bertrand Traore is one talented footballer or so says Jose Mourinho. In what can be only a morale booster for the teenager from Burkina Faso, the Portuguese manager described him of “exceptional ability” and “will fit straight into my first team”. That dream, however, was cut short by UK’s work permit regulations stating that a player has to have played a certain number of matches for his country before he can ply his trade in the Premier League.
Traore’s association with Chelsea has been a weird but successful one. Initially rejecting Manchester United to join the Blues from French club Auxerre, the midfielder was banging in goals for fun at the youth level and in pre-season friendlies for Chelsea. No surprise then that the club wanted to tie him down to a long-term contract as soon as he turned 18. And so they did on September 6th, 2013 when he signed a four-year deal to stay at the Bridge. The aforementioned work permit problems meant that he – like five of his club mates – was to be loaned out to Dutch club Vitesse, a deal which has been extended up to the end of this season.
When a manager who has seen and coached the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic says you would fit into his team straight away is a compliment for any player, let alone for a player just starting his career. What Mourinho must have seen in him is his exceptional ability to find space just behind the strikers and thus creating chances not only for himself, but also for his teammates. An excellent first touch, an eye for goal and a sense of maturity way beyond his years, Traore could just be the next big thing in English football.
Versatility & Championship Loans
All of 19 and having represented all the youth levels in England’s international side, Nathaniel Chalobah is already, in many ways, a star. A product of Chelsea’s youth academy, this versatile player who can play as a defensive midfielder or in defence, Chalobah has been highly rated by all coaches he has played under.
The captain of Chelsea’s FA Youth Cup-winning side in 2012, this teenager immediately caught the attention of the footballing world. A new five-year deal in 2013 reportedly worth 30,000 pounds a week showed how important he is to Chelsea’s plans for the future. With Mourinho looking for versatile players, who can help in both attack and defence, Chalobah definitely seems to fit the bill. However, having gone on four loan spells since turning pro, he would be forgiven for beginning to doubt if he is required at the star-studded west London club.
A solid player who is sure on the ball, can act as a link between defence and attack and is versatile is surely an asset to any side he plays for. He showed that for Watford in the 2012-13 season, when he was their mainstay in midfield. Only if Chelsea look within their own club and not go out and buy the Sami Khediras of this world, players like Nathaniel Chalobah would be encouraged no end.
All said and done, like it or not, Chelsea will continue to send players out on loan given the star-studded first-team. Hard to imagine that some established players in that squad are still in their early twenties which only means that the loanees will have to wait that much longer for their chance. If and when they do get that, however, they should ensure they impress the gaffer and more importantly perhaps, their billionaire owner from Russia.
Written by Alok Kulkarni
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