Oriol Romeu fell into that category at Barcelona as good enough for a place in the first team and as back up for Sergio Busquets, but still sort of dispensable due to players like Sergi Roberto and Thiago. It’s about numbers at Barcelona, and simply the club cannot keep every footballer who exhibits excellence in his area of expertise .
That should have been Chelsea’s gain. Romeu arrived during the summer of Villas-Boas and as one of the devices to help transform Chelsea’s playing style. The former Barcelona player can hold onto that place in the centre of the midfield well, but there’s certainly plenty of room to help him develop into one of the leading Spanish midfield players away from the big two in Spain.
The question should be: will Romeu get that kind of education and guidance while at Chelsea?
So far this season, Romeu has made two Premier League appearances, one of which came from the bench, and two starts in the League Cup. Manager Roberto Di Matteo suggested the player would receive more playing time this season due to the departures of Michael Essien and Raul Meireles, but is the player best suited to remaining at Stamford Bridge?
The form and lack of bite to Jon Obi Mikel’s game should certainly have given Romeu a nudge towards making further appearances in the league. The player should be viewed as a bargain considering his talent, and he should be regularly competing alongside other young superstars in the team. But the lack of glamour behind his signing may be his undoing at Chelsea.
There were reports that Valencia were looking to take the player back to Spain in the near future, and further reports suggested Barcelona would help facilitate his move to La Liga. Romeu would unquestionably be an instant fit and an excellent compliment in the Valencia squad, one who are lacking the role of a tough but elegant defensive midfield player.
Romeu’s education at Barcelona means he should be a success at Chelsea, and perhaps the club are looking a little further into the future with their reluctance to let him move on. Andre Villas-Boas saw the potential in his simple but effective grasp on the game, but as the Portuguese manager moved, so did Romeu’s chances for further progression in the Chelsea team.
He didn’t do a lot wrong during his time under Villas-Boas, either. His inexperience at the highest level probably came to the fore on a number of occasions, but he was and still is very much a player who can help the club switch forces on the pitch and form something of a replica of what we’re seeing in Spain.
The question shouldn’t be if he is good enough for the top-flight in a team like Chelsea; were it not for the numbers game at Barcelona and the effectiveness of a Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta midfield axis, Romeu would have seen more playing time. Injuries didn’t help either, but the player was further along the conveyor belt than most from the production factory and was first team-ready.
It would be a real shame and as horrible waste of talent should Romeu fall into that dreaded Josh McEachran zone, loaned out with the insistence he’ll be an important player in the future but with nothing other than hollow promises.
He’d be an outstanding candidate to fill in alongside Ramires, for example, in the Chelsea midfield and just behind the three advanced attackers. He retains the Barcelona possession game he learnt while at La Masia, but in a less obvious way. He doesn’t really look like someone fresh off the production line at the Camp Nou, rather a hybrid of the glowing qualities of those in Catalonia and of other canteras in the country.
As mentioned, he was one of the closest to the first team from the Barcelona B team, but Chelsea really should be making more use of his obvious talents. If they were not jumping up and down with joy following his capture for a minimal fee last summer, they would certainly feel great regret following a possible departure in the future.