On-loan youth provides options later
As the British talk about the weather, Chelsea fans talk about the latest 'wasted' youth talent.
September 9th, 2013
For some years Josh McEachran was the number one topic – sadly it would appear the greatest hopes have faded in that area (more to do with a terrible run of luck, than any actual mismanagement).
Now Romelu Lukaku is the name fogging up the windows of cars and bars. Come the weekend at Goodison, it will be in the home side’s programme column that his name appears – though he won’t actually play, of course. And that seems to be a source of dismay for so many wearing the other shade of blue.
It is without doubt that Lukaku looked good last season at West Brom. A tally of 17 goals is mightily impressive. Everton are delighted to have got him on loan – and so they should be. Strong, lethal, a bit rough around the edges, but just – only just – starting to justify that ‘mini-Drogba’ tag. (Having stood on tippy-toes to prop a voice recorder under the noses of both – I can confirm ‘maxi-Drogba’ is more apt).
Many, particularly those who have lost faith in Fernando, feel he could have offered the best attacking option for Chelsea this season. But we are where we are. It would appear Torres is going nowhere for the time being – like it or not, Chelsea are adamant about that.
And, with strikers’ egos being what they are (something not limited to the Spaniard – remember Gianluca, Jimmy Floyd, Didier?) – a £50m asset is likely to retain that intangible ‘confidence’ more ably if rotated with a four-times African Player of the Year, than with a comparative rookie.
In reality, the Lukaku situation is uncannily similar to that with Thibaut Courtois – another young Belgian whose latest loan caused disarray among some. Both players are a great prospect. Both players have achieved much, at a level slightly below Chelsea’s present standard. And both players have clocked up an impressive number of eye-catching performances: improving their all-round game in the process.
That improvement through match experience is something either of them would have foregone, had they been sat on the bench at Chelsea. And, as is clear, that was the only other option.
Courtois, who has evolved into possibly Europe’s best young keeper, has every chance of being Chelsea’s number one next season: Petr Cech continues to accumulate debilitating injuries, and I don’t see him as one of those goalkeepers who plays on into his late 30s.
Meanwhile, at the end of this season, Torres will have two years left on his contract: clearly into the realms of extension or sale. Samuel Eto’o is here for a year, and Demba Ba already looks like a major contender for the January page of the 2014 club calendar.
Chelsea are keen to say that they have learned from previous poor loan spells – McEachran being a case in point. By May, Lukaku will hopefully be a more accomplished Premier League striker, with a bagful of Everton goals to his name. The intention is that some of that brute force will be augmented by a bit of match-won culture and experience.
And maybe, just maybe, he’ll be ready to wrestle that number nine shirt from its present custodian.