Since early 2010, the F.C Chelsea has implemented a system that falls under the category “alternative” in terms of developing young players. The much debated and criticized loan system grows larger year by year and featured some of Europe’s most promising talents such as Kevin De Bruyne or Romelu Lukaku. Last season, Chelsea had nearly 50 players on loan at different clubs throughout Europe. From these 50, only two will potentially have a chance of featuring for the first team next season, and that is not even guaranteed. While the system does hold perks, allowing Chelsea to form relationships with other clubs, for example Vitesse Arnheim, who gives their young players valuable first team experience on more competitive levels than those, that could be provided domestically. In turn, this would allow Chelsea first take on any promising youngsters that may develop next to their own. Yet, the loan system also has fatal flaws, which are becoming clearer as more players are accumulated. While the theoretical implications of such a system are viable, in reality, youngsters such as Tomas Kalas, for example, spend year by year in different environments, which all take time to adapt to. Kalas was signed by Chelsea in 2010 from Czech club Sigma Ölmutz. Kalas was then sent out on loan, playing for the Czech club, Vitesse Arnheim (two years), F.C Köln, Middlesbrough and Fulham throughout his six years at Chelsea. When that adaption process is finally completed after the first six months, the player faces three months with his team to then ultimately end up at a different club next season, where the whole process repeats itself again. This both ultimately limits the player’s potential, and also frustrates the player mentally. Going away from the limiting the development of a player, the strategy may result in the club overlooking some potential in a loan player in favour of buying a big name. (Hint Hint: Kevin De Bruyne). One example of this would be, Kevin De Bruyne (surprise). The Belgian was initially sent out on loan to Genk and Werder Bremen to allow him to develop in a more competitive environment than the Premiere Youth League. During his season in Germany, young Kevin impressed all-around and was recalled to feature in the first team next season. After five games under Mourinho, the Belgian struggled to find his feet at first, and was deemed surplus to requirements. This led to his winter sale to Wolfsburg, and the rest, as we know, ended rather poorly for London club. De Bruyne proved pretty much everyone at Chelsea wrong, and Man City snapped up the young Belgian for a cool €74 Million. This would be one example where Chelsea had a potential super-star on their books, but favoured playing the expensive purchases of Willian or Andre Schürrle.
Another example of this would be another Belgian by the name of Romelu Lukaku. The bullish striker was signed by Chelsea in 2011, and sent out on loan to West Brom to develop over a season. After 17 goals and 7 assists in 38 games for West Brom, he returned to Chelsea only to find himself as third/fourth forward option behind Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres. Lukaku then departed Chelsea for another loan spell to Everton, but would never return as he again, did not receive the confidence to lead the line for the London club after they had signed Diego Costa. Chelsea, again live to regret that decision, letting Lukaku walk for what they thought was a solid return of €35 Million. Fast forward to last week, Lukaku snubbed Chelsea’s interest in reuniting with the forward in favour of rivals Manchester United for a fee of nearly €86 Million.
These are two examples of Chelsea overlooking two very talented players in favour of bringing in expensive options. While the front office has probably learned their lesson, there are many other loan players that could feature for the first team after impressing on their recent loan stints. Here are some notable players that SHOULD feature in Chelsea’s first team next season, or at the very least be considered rotation options.
Andreas Christensen: Ready-made replacement for John Terry.
The young Danish centre-back has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga in his two years at Mönchengladbach. The young defender formed a solid partnership with his countryman Jannick Vestergaard, and showed tremendous improvement in all-around play, positioning, and ability to use his 1, 88 meter frame to bully forwards into submission. Throughout his loan stint, Christensen has begun to feature for the Danish nationalteam, and has also increased his value from €1.5 Million, when he initially joined Gladbach, to €18 Million. Christensen is also only 22, with much room to improve as he adapts to the more physical style of the Premiere League. That aspect of the game should suit Christensen well as he is physically dominant over most of the players he encounters. Expect Christensen to feature more as the season progresses, the youngster has all the tools to win a starting spot at Stamford Bridge and it should be no surprise if he does it sooner than later.
Mario Pasalic: A solid backup to Kante and Bakayoko.
The tall Croatian is another to have joined the Chelsea loan system in 2011, only to be sent around to different destination year after year. While the young midfielder had a solid stint at Elche in Spain, he struggled a bit for Monaco during his stint there, but showed last season why he is so highly rated. The 1, 88 meter Croatian was sent to Milan last season and even established himself as a starter in midfield for the Italians. The strength and natural eye for tackle allows Pasalic to excel in his defensive midfield role, and in recent history has even shown a strong eye for goal, scoring 5+ goals in his last two years. It may be a bit too early for the Croatian to start predominantly featuring for Chelsea, but he should be seen as capable back-up for the two starting central midfielders. Throughout the season, like in Milan, expect to grow with confidence and feature more predominantly.
Charly Musonda Jr.: Impact player
Another young Belgian to feature in Chelsea’s loan army, and let’s hope they have learned from their two previous mistakes regarding Belgian youngsters. The youngster played in Spain at Betis Sevilla during the last half of season, making 24 appearances scoring one goal and assisting three more. The quick and agile winger showed that he is force to be reckoned with when on the ball, beating defenders left and right with his quick feet and pace. These traits should suit Chelsea well as it is something the London club have missed this since the departure of Andre Schürrle, who always managed to provide that injection of dynamism when he came off the bench. In contrast to Schürrle, Musonda won’t mind coming off bench as he still only 20 years old. In him, Chelsea have a gem on their hands and with the right treatment, the youngster can develop into a similar type of player like his compatriot Eden Hazard.
If any of these three will feature in Chelsea’s first team squad next season is still in question. Although some of these youngsters will feature in test matches and pre-season tours, many will never make the cut into Chelsea’s first team and will end up like Tomas Kalas, moving from loan stint to loan stint, without a consistent outlook in sight. Young players require consistency to develop, a loan spell may do a young player a world of good, but if he is shipped around to different clubs and countries year after year, it will impact their development. In a financial aspect, Chelsea views their loan army as a potential gold-mine. If loan player performs admirably, but falls in that category where he is not good enough for the first team, Chelsea will in many cases be tempted to cash-in on the player. An example from this year would be Bertrande Traore. The striker from Burkina Faso showed his immense quality during his loan at Ajax this season, scoring 17 goals and making 10 assist as he was part of the team that played in the Europa League final against Manchester United this year. With his road to the first team blocked by Diego Costa and Michy Bitschuayi, Chelsea saw the opportunity to cash-in on the striker for €10 Million. Chelsea did the same thing with the likes of Nathan Ake, Christian Atsu and Nathanial Chalobah. While Chelsea gained revenue of €42.7 Million through the sales of these four players, the question always remains; would they have been more valuable had Chelsea give them the opportunity to contribute, or could they have been sold for significantly higher values if they were given the right platform to perform? Only time will tell.