The vast majority of Chelsea’s loan army returned to Cobham this week to report for pre-season training under the tutelage of Eddie Newton.
Yes, such is the scale of the club’s operation in this arm of development, they have an entirely separate squad training and working together under Newton and his new assistant Paulo Ferreira. Some will join the first team squad when they return next week and a lucky few may be included on the tour of the United States, but the rest of them will work towards match fitness as they sort out a new temporary home for the 2015-16 season.
Some already have. Lewis Baker has upped and headed for Arnhem to become the 15th Blues youngster to represent Vitesse, whilst a pair of Croatians in Mario Pašalić and Stipe Perica have also sorted their next steps. Perica returned to Udinese for the second leg of an eighteen-month loan agreement made in January, whilst Pašalić joins AS Monaco ahead of their UEFA Champions League campaign as part of the deal to bring Falcao to Chelsea.
Christian Atsu was the first to go, swapping Everton blue for Bournemouth red and black, and he’ll be hoping for a much better time of it than he experienced on Merseyside. For the remaining two-dozen or so hopefuls, an interesting few weeks await, so it’s time to get the lay of the land and round up the latest rumours and projections for the coming term.
The First-Team Fringe
A clutch of youngsters are close to being involved in Jose Mourinho’s plans – at least as realistically close as one gets these days – but are in need of at least half a season of further refinement. Marco van Ginkel is chief amongst those, having earned his way into the senior squad shortly after arriving from Vitesse only to have his progress halted by a torn cruciate ligament. He took his recovery to Milan last season and wound up establishing himself as a very credible Serie A midfielder, and although initial stories linked him with Premier League football next season in the guise of a spell with either Newcastle or Sunderland, he is now on the verge of joining Stoke as part of a deal to bring Asmir Begovic to Chelsea.
New Newcastle boss Steve McClaren will have fancied his chances with Eredivisie ties from his days at FC Twente and his good connections with Chelsea in the loan department, from Patrick Bamford at Derby to Miroslav Stoch when leading Twente to the Dutch title. Bamford himself has been linked with Newcastle and a number of other top-flight clubs as he looks to leave Championship football behind and test himself at the next level. Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka confirmed earlier in the week that he does not expect the prolific forward to return to Teesside amidst interest from big clubs at home and abroad, and it’s the latter which appears a particularly interesting proposition with Newton mentioning Bundesliga and La Liga clubs a possibility.
Middlesbrough will though get Tomas Kalas back for a full season after the Czech defender developed quite an affinity with the club during his three-month stay last spring. He may be joined by Nathan Aké as Karanka once again seeks to exploit his relationship with Mourinho.
Andreas Christensen returns from a longer holiday following a fine showing for Denmark at the European Under-21 Championships and should seal a move to German side Borussia Mönchengladbach, where Champions League football awaits. Bertrand Traore, meanwhile, has secured himself a UK work permit and at this stage is believed to be set for a season in the first team squad at Stamford Bridge, but if plans are to change then he will have no shortage of suitors both at home and abroad.
The budding next generation
Baker appears close to being joined in Arnhem by at least two more Blues youngsters as Izzy Brown and new Brazilian signing Nathan are each finalising switches. Nathan arrived in the Netherlands last week and is staying close to the club’s training ground on the German side of the border whilst he sorts a Dutch work permit. Brown, on the other hand, was only rumoured to be joining the party earlier this week but all signs point towards him replacing Traore as Peter Bosz’s versatile forward of choice for ’15-16.
Charly Musonda’s name has hit the headlines early and often this summer with a host of European heavyweights understandably interested in the Belgian’s majestic talents. Talk of a permanent departure to an Arsenal or a Manchester City are fanciful at best but Dutch and French interest is genuine and either PSV Eindhoven or Marseille would be a realistic proposition at this stage. Marseille are also believed to be very keen on bringing Jeremie Boga back to his home town to represent the club he supports. It would be an undoubted test of character to take his maiden steps in professional football in such a demanding environment but he is more likely to go out on loan at this stage than not.
The same cannot be said of Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Dominic Solanke, who are expected to stay in SW6 and train with the first team on a permanent basis. Loftus-Cheek’s ascent to a role of regular action has been discussed frequently since April and although Solanke may only receive toke involvement at best, any talk of a loan for him would be premature (or indeed surprising) until January at the earliest.
The ‘last-chance’ saloon
With Gael Kakuta (Sevilla) and Josh McEachran (Brentford) having left for good, the stark reality of the shelf life of a Chelsea youngster has hit home hard this summer. A clutch of young pros will be striving to not have their names added to the list by enjoying an upturn in fortunes with a suitable move, and none need it more so than Nathaniel Chalobah. The player who impressed everyone so much whilst at Watford has rarely been seen since with a series of moves that were questionable at best, and his involvement in England’s Under-21 disappointment this summer will not have helped his stock very much.
An intended move to Bordeaux last winter was nixed by FIFA’s odd decision to classify an Under-21 fixture as a competitive match for Chelsea, but it would be a surprise if he was to look overseas again. It might therefore mean another stay in the Championship – don’t rule Middlesbrough out – but a good half-season there might yet open Premier League doors.
Lucas Piazon’s summer will begin with Brazil’s Pan-American Games squad in Canada and end with him hoping for better than he got last time around in Frankfurt. With Nathan attracting the spotlight and Fluminense’s Kenedy also about to arrive, it’s time for Lucas to remind people why he was once highly-rated, but talk of his next move is fairly non-existent at this stage.
Taking the next step
Jamal Blackman, Alex Davey, Alex Kiwomya, Todd Kane, John Swift and Islam Feruz all did the rounds in the football league during 2014-15 and will do the same again. Kane, who turns 22 early in the season, will be allowed to move permanently to a Championship or League One suitor willing to stump up roughly a quarter of a million pounds and they’ll get themselves a thoroughly dependable and reliable performer with plenty of attacking upside for the future.
Davey impressed in League One for Scunthorpe and will likely return to that level to begin with, in an effort to prove himself capable of playing at a higher standard in the same manner Bamford, Kane and Baker did in previous seasons. Kiwomya had a cup of coffee with Barnsley in a month-loan deal earlier this year and should get a greater exposure to things in England’s third tier now, whilst Swift’s largely positive five months at Swindon have set him up for a return to the upper echelons of the league at worst, and a Championship stay in an ideal situation. It might also be worth keeping an eye on him with regards an overseas deal.
Blackman made one appearance for Middlesbrough and needs more as he too hits the age of 22 this coming October, and League One should be a good starting point for him. As far as Feruz goes, he needs to leave an entirely baffling 2014-15 and re-find his best form. Interest from MK Dons (amongst others in the Championship) is welcome.
The first-team cast-offs
Mohamed Salah has courted much controversy over the past seven days owing to his refusal to report to pre-season training with Fiorentina, who believed they had the contractual right to extend his wildly successful half-season for another twelve months. The Egyptian international has indicated he has no intention of doing so and whilst he is back in London for now, Italy still beckons with Roma, Juventus, Inter and Milan fighting it out for his services. A Chelsea future remains very unlikely with a hefty fee instead on its way into the club’s coffers.
Marko Marin’s injury problems have curtailed what was once a promising career and talk of him going to MLS with Sporting Kansas City fits the bill right now.
Victor Moses has established himself as a Premier League player and did well for Stoke but with Van Ginkel heading to the Britannia Stadium, he can therefore return there as a full signing. If not, there will be plenty of alternatives, even if it means another loan for a player contracted up until 2017.
Oriol Romeu, however, remains optimistic about chances of returning to the fold he last graced under Andre Vilas-Boas. A new contract signed last summer mainly assures Chelsea of a decent fee should they sell him and a middling year at Stuttgart has done little to convince anyone that he’s ready to step up. He had been linked with Watford but their signing of Etienne Capoue will have nixed any notions of a jaunt to Hertfordshire.
It’s especially harsh on Kenneth Omeruo to include him in this section given his standing as an international regular with a World Cup Finals appearance on his resume but he doesn’t fit anywhere else. Eighteen months at Middlesbrough went gradually and then rapidly downhill and whilst he has plenty about him to salvage the situation – Fulham, QPR and Lille have all seen their names alongside his – he’s yet another to hit that problematic age of 22 early in ’15-16. It makes him too old to be registered as an Under-21 and it rather shortens the window of opportunity to make it at Stamford Bridge.
Wallace lost his place in Vitesse’s starting line-up last season to a homegrown teenage defender and was only able to return to the side later in the campaign as a winger. Aspirations of playing for Benfica expressed in May will possibly have been laughed off by the Portuguese powerhouses but the league in general might suit him and a relationship with Vitória Setúbal exists…
…Uli Dávila and Joao Rodriguez were the guinea pigs in that particular arrangement and results were inconclusive. Dávila, now 24 and with a career high of scoring the goal that secured Córdoba’s promotion to La Liga in 2014, made a dozen appearances and was this week linked with Maccabi Haifa, but will also qualify for a Spanish passport in the new year, at which point a permanent move to the country becomes a whole lot easier for him.
Rodriguez is some five years younger and wholly more promising, looking quite good for Bastia last autumn before falling off the face of the earth once manager Claude Makelele was sacked. A natural goalscorer with plenty of athleticism, he might find himself moving to a relatively obscure club but it’ll take just one moment of luck for his career to properly take off.
Matej Delač won a title with FK Sarajevo last season and it’d be easy to see him playing in Serbia/Bosnia/Croatia but he too has something about him which could really develop quite nicely if exposed to a higher standard of football. He’s nearly 23 and has never played in a better quality league than the Serbian top flight but has plenty of assets in his arsenal to do just that.
Cristian Cuevas’ return to Chile last season with Universidad de Chile did not go to plan and he’s likely to start over with Colo Colo. With Vitesse and FC Eindhoven also on his ‘loanwatch’ file, it’s hard to see where the 20 year-old wing-back goes from here.
The first-time loanees
We’ll cover these in greater detail next week but Mitchell Beeney, Dion Conroy, Fankaty Dabo, Kevin Wright, Jordan Houghton and Reece Mitchell are all at the right stages of their careers to go out and get a taste of adult football. They do so as the Under-21 squad transitions into a new generation ahead of a new season which begins on August 9th away to Liverpool.
A full season preview will of course be here on TheChels.net in due course, and don’t forget you can keep fully up to date with the hectic summer goings-on in #CFC #loanwatch land by following @chelseayouth on Twitter.