Chelsea entered a new episode in their history this week as they appointed Italy head coach Antonio Conte as their new manager.
The Italian will step down after the EURO 2016 campaign and will be thrown into the Stamford Bridge hot-seat, where there will be no lack of interest as we all wait to see how he’ll get on.
He’s known for being a tight, tactical coach that can quickly lose his temper – remind you of anyone, Chelsea fans?
When former boss Jose Mourinho was sacked back in December, there was a large void left at the club, which Guus Hiddink has managed to stabilise, but has not fixed. Yet one area of Chelsea’s side that needs immediate attention is the size of their squad. The Blues have 33 players out on-loan at present and there seems to be no indication as to what their futures will be under Conte.
Has Hiddink been keeping an eye on their progress whilst he’s been in temporary charge? It’s a large crop of talent to have to track every week and some Chelsea fans have wondered whether some of their young stars have been forgotten about amidst a season of turbulence and change.
Many expect some sort of overhaul this summer – there has to be. Some of Chelsea’s first-team squad haven’t performed well enough, and the future of Diego Costa is still in doubt.
But, it’s the growing number of loanees that are out at some of Europe’s best clubs that are causing a stir? What does the future hold for them?
In total, they are worth in excess of over £150m in transfer fees, and I’m sure by now many of them realise that their futures are away from Stamford Bridge, where they will get game time and the chance to build a reputable career in another country.
However, there are a handful that some believe could make it at Stamford Bridge if Conte gives them a chance in the near future. Take Nathan Ake for example. The defender has shone whilst at Watford this season, helping the Hornets cement their place in the Premier League. But would he be able to outshine Cesar Azpilicueta if he did return to the Bridge?
What about Domonic Solanke and Patrick Bamford? Both are young strikers are seemingly on the cusp of first-team action at the Bridge, but aren’t quite ready it seems. Solanke is doing well at Vitesse Arnhem in the Eredivise – as so many of their stars have – whilst Bamford has had a succession of loans in England, but it was his spell at Middlesbrough where he really grabbed the headlines.
There are numerous examples of bizarre signings at the Bridge – where players have been signed and then sent out on-loan straight away. Papy Djilobodji is perhaps the stand-out example, and he, after a few minutes in a cup game against Walsall, isn’t expected to ever play for Chelsea again.
Is this a result of a poor transfer system or Chelsea’s want to develop as many superstars as humanely possible? Conte needs to come in and make some decisions about some of these players to make sure they’re not left in limbo for the rest of their careers.