When Jeffrey Bruma returns from his holidays later next week, he will complete the formalities in a deal to join German outfit Hamburg on a two-year loan.
The reaction to the news has been mixed amongst Chelsea supporters, with some suggesting that the young Dutch defender will never be capable of holding down a regular place in the Blues’ lineup, whilst others have vented their anger at Frank Arnesen for ‘poaching’ another young player away from London following the departures of Michael Mancienne, Gokhan Tore and Jacopo Sala on permanent deals.
However, the reality of the situation is that the move represents good news for both Bruma and for Chelsea.
The 19 year-old is at a stage of his career where he needs to play regular football at a top quality level in order to maintain his pace in the Netherlands national team, for whom he has two caps to date.
A loan spell at Leicester City last season was ill-fated, but was the result of unfortunate circumstance and poor decision-making on the part of his club.
Due to the delays in securing the signature of David Luiz from Benfica, Chelsea were unwilling to part with Bruma until they were sure they had their man, for otherwise their depth at centre-back would have been compromised.
This meant a reported loan deal to Premier League side West Brom fell through, and with the January transfer window having closed, only a move to a domestic lower division was possible.
Leicester was the destination of choice, but in a defensive unit full of young loanees, Bruma struggled to find consistency, with perhaps his best displays coming when deployed in midfield.
Yet despite these apparent toothing problems, he is still held in high regard. He is less than a year into a long-term contract at Stamford Bridge and made his full debut during the 2010-11 campaign whilst also making strides in international football.
Unfortunately for him, he plies his trade at a club who have what is arguably the best centre-back depth in world football. John Terry, Alex, David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic are all top class, seasoned performers and thus Bruma will need to look elsewhere for playing time.
Step in Hamburg. Arnesen is a well-publicised fan, having snared him from Feyenoord as a fifteen year-old, and has openly professed to a desire to sign him permanently in his new role in the Bundesliga.
Chelsea were less than accomodating to that request, but more than willing for him to spend the next two seasons in Germany. Hamburg are believed to have wanted an option to buy the player outright at the end of the loan, but Bruma himself is said to have scotched that idea, wanting more personal flexibility in his career path.
The loose ends of the deal are yet to be fully publicised but Chelsea are thought to have an option to recall Bruma after one season. That is only likely to happen if there are concerns about the longevity of any one of the quartet named above, but otherwise they will be more than happy for their player to develop his craft in an environment similar to English football whilst up against top class performers.
He has already accrued the necessary time at the club to be classed as a home-grown player under the Premier League’s registration rules and, whilst many would disagree, has all of the necessary tools to be a quality defender for years to come.
The number of teenagers capable of playing in the middle of defence for an elite club in modern football can be counted on one hand, whilst even fewer have earned the attention of their national team manager.
Sure, there are some areas to be improved upon and some creases to be ironed out, but it’s important to remember that Bruma doesn’t turn 20 until mid November, and thus far in his career has been well ahead of the curve.
Detractors will point at younger players playing key roles at other top clubs, but the vast majority of those play in ‘secondary’ positions such as full-back or on the wing, where their positional responsibility is far reduced and they can play safe in the knowledge that an error is unlikely to result directly in a goal.
For Bruma himself, he will surely look forward to playing week in, week out alongside an established partner in Heiko Westermann, although he will have to battle Mancienne for the starting berth initially.
Joris Mathijsen has already departed to join Malaga whilst David Rozehnal and Alex Silva are also heading out of the door at the Imtech Arena, leaving the road relatively clear for someone to claim the job as their own.
It is an unusual step for the Germans to agree to such a deal without having any long-term financial benefit, but with Chelsea having been more than open to Arnesen’s moves so far, a mutual agreement appears to have been struck.
If, at the end of the loan, Bruma hasn’t developed into a player suitable to play for Chelsea, then he will likely be sold for a decent fee and to a decent club, which are each likely to be improvements on what would be seen if he were to leave permanently now.
If he shines, then everyone’s happy. It’s a good deal.
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