The Loan Report: Season in Review – Belgium, France and Italy

With the 2013-14 season now pretty much over, it’s time to take a look back over a record-breaking campaign on the loan front. Today, we look at the Chelsea’s prospects in Belgium, France and Italy.


[table class=”table table-striped”]
Kurt Zouma,Saint Etienne,9,0,1
Gael Kakuta,Lazio,2,0,0
Thorgan Hazard,Zulte Waregem,50,17,20
Billy Clifford,Antwerp,4,0,0
(Zouma’s appearances count from when he signed for Chelsea)

The Story?

Signed during the January transfer window and allowed to stay with Saint Etienne, Zouma started barely half a dozen matches between then and the end of the season despite Les Verts pushing for Champions League qualification. The only logical explanation for their apparent change of heart is that they felt better served by preparing for life without their freakish teenage defender as well as realising that they fared well enough without him when he was serving a ten-match ban for a particularly reckless foul earlier in the campaign.

A story of complete and utter disappointment. Kakuta moved to Lazio in January after a frustrating stay in Arnhem between August and December, but played less than 45 minutes of football during his time in the Eternal City.

It was at least 45 minutes more than Wallace played over the same period of time. After impressing on tour with Jose Mourinho’s first team in Asia last summer, the Brazilian full-back had no shortage of offers but his agent chose a move to Inter. He made three early season appearances from the bench but was not involved beyond October 20th and effectively wasted a season of development.

Hazard built on a solid first season with Zulte Waregem by crowning himself the Belgian Player of the Year for the 2013 calendar year and the Players’ Player of the Season. He was (arguably) the Jupiler League’s finest player and turned in an impressive statistical season whilst leading Essevee in another title challenge that ultimately fell short but still secured European qualification once again.

Lining up in attacking midfield with the freedom to roam and dictate the play, he scored and provided every type of goal in a spectactular campaign. Free kicks, penalties, long shots, volleys, solo runs; they were all present as he marked himself out as too good for this level and ready for bigger challenges to come. Unfortunately, the strength of the Belgian national team in the creative playmaker department meant he was only named as a reserve option for their World Cup squad and unless an injury befalls a Nacer Chadli or a Dries Mertens, he’ll be watching from home this summer.

Clifford hooked up with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Royal Antwerp in the Belgian second tier late in January after a first half of the season that didn’t quite go to plan, and unfortunately despite his obvious talent, he was really unable to affect things abroad either. He found himself consigned to the bench of most of his stay and started only a couple of matches.

What’s Next?

Zouma will take part in Chelsea’s pre-season and is a presumptive favourite to find himself amongst the defensive rotation in the first team next season. If he doesn’t quite make the cut, some very good teams will be on the line with eagerness to take him away on loan.

Almost unbelievably, Kakuta remains contracted to Chelsea until 2015 but he turns 23 next month and must surely now move on with little opportunity of making good on the remarkable potential he displayed as a teenager.

Wallace will put this forgettable year behind him and look to start afresh for next term with a club where he might actually play.

Hazard was given a right send-off by the Zulte fans in his final home game and he won’t be back in his home country next year. At this point it’s almost certain he’ll join in with Chelsea during pre-season but then head out to a much more challenging loan destination with clubs from England and Germany said to be queuing for his services. Liverpool and Schalke are the most recent parties to come to the fore but an Everton or a Dortmund could just as easily benefit from the considerable talents of Eden’s baby brother.

Clifford returned to England at the end of his stay in Antwerp and although he has a year left on his contract, he turns 22 early next season and will surely be considering the next step in his football career being away from Stamford Bridge.