Let’s Talk About Slobodan Rajkovic

If Chelsea were linked with a nearly 22 year-old international centre-back tomorrow, one suspects the reaction would be a positive one.

The player in question has over 100 appearances in club football, is versatile, has impressive size and height, and is currently captain of his club side.

It all adds up quite well for a potential signing in a position the club has struggled for depth in so far this season.

The good news is; we’re obviously talking about Slobodan Rajkovic, who is currently Chelsea property. The bad news? He’s never played a single competitive second for the club in three years of ownership, and is currently at his third Dutch club after work permit issues prevented his progression to a career in England.

It makes for a quite frustrating situation, not least for the young Serbian himself. Touted as a fantastic prospect for the future as a mere 15 year-old making his debut for Partizan Belgrade, Slobodan became the world’s most expensive teenager when Chelsea paid nearly £4m for him in 2007.

He made an appearance in a reserve team friendly against the Chinese Under-23 Olympic team at Griffin Park, but for much of his Blues ‘career’, he has been stationed in the Eredivisie.

One season at PSV Eindhoven and two at FC Twente resulted in two title-winning achievements, before he was assigned to new affiliate club Vitesse Arnhem for 2010-11, alongside compatriot Nemanja Matic and young Croatian goalkeeper Matej Delac.

Despite being a newcomer to the squad, Rajkovic has captained the team for most of the season, and whilst they’ve struggled for results, his performances have been consistent and confident.

Injuries have curtailed his involvement at times over the last three years but as he approaches his 22nd birthday in February, those appear to be behind him, and the focus on taking the next step can begin.

What that will exactly be isn’t clear. Rumours of a move to Fulham in the summer may have been wide of the mark but at the very least, there appeared to be little consideration for him to stay on at Stamford Bridge.

Serbian national team manager Vladimir Petrovic has been impressed enough to give the defender a recall to the full senior squad after a considerable absence, but as far as his parent club are concerned, there seems to be a certain element of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

Ricardo Carvalho’s sale in August left a void in the Blues’ back line, one which Jeffrey Bruma was hoped to fill. The Dutchman has made a handful of appearances, but is yet to convince and is likely to be departing on loan in 2011.

That will inevitably lead to rumours of a new signing, and should someone arrive, it will simply put another block in the road towards a career at Chelsea for young Slobodan.

Whether he’s good enough or not isn’t really the point right now. What is apparent is that he should have come under consideration at some point, such are the club’s issues with young centre backs.

Bruma aside, Sam Hutchinson’s premature retirement and Carl Magnay’s injuries mean there is quite the void between the first team and the likes of Rohan Ince and Daniel Pappoe, who are incredibly young and raw, with much development left to do.

Rajkovic provides much of what one would look for in a defender, and whilst work permit problems are a potential issue, they can be overcome quite comfortably with a successful appeal.

We’re unlikely to find out what the future holds for him until next July at the earliest, and whilst optimism can be found if you look hard enough, chances are he’ll continue his career elsewhere.

And that could turn out to be quite the disappointment.