Chelsea must not dodge transfer offers for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Crystal Palace runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Crystal Palace runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

Chelsea finally are making a habit of loaning players to Premier League teams. Players like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy are now transfer targets of their loan clubs, and Chelsea owe it to them not to evade a permanent decision.

For many years, a return to England for a Chelsea loanee meant a spell in the Championship or worse. After learning the technical and tactical intricacies of the Eredivisie, La Liga or Bundesliga, a young BINO* would find himself in the decidedly non-technical, tactically antediluvian depths of the English pyramid learning how to play bad football. They would then bounce around Europe a bit more, until somebody at the Telegraph wrote the obligatory death knell “Chelsea’s once-promising starlet now battling back from injury at (random club here).”

In the final years of Michael Emenalo’s regime, the final stops of the loan pathway became less terminal. Andreas Christensen went from two years at Borussia Monchengladbach to Chelsea’s starting XI. Kenedy and Ruben Loftus-Cheek lead the loan army’s Premier League delegation at Newcastle and Crystal Palace, respectively. Marco van Ginkel led PSV Eindhoven to an early Eredivisie title. And in the Championship, several players are at promotion candidate Fulham and early-season promotion possibility Hull City.

Chelsea’s development system is finally maturing. That is small comfort to the many casualties of the loan army over the last decade, but it is hope for the current crop of young players. But the high-profile successes mean Chelsea will have more difficult decisions. These will play out much more in the public eye as they involve top clubs and well-known young players.

The Blues can expect interest – if not bids – from Newcastle and Crystal Palace for Kenedy and Loftus-Cheek. The managers at each club have nothing but praise for these players. They are giving the loanees greater responsibility within the teams, and building the teams with them in mind. Wherever Newcastle and Crystal Palace end up this season, they will be in a better place than they would be without their Chelsea temps.

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Kenedy and Loftus-Cheek are 22 years old. They are in the final year of their developmental phase, and in many ways are behind the curve set by their peers. As Loftus-Cheek’s very brief coach, Frank de Boer, said recently “from 17 until 22 you have to play every week, 30, 40 games a year.” Neither have come close.  Both have had injury issues, but both have also had lengthy limbos at Chelsea. They could easily be first-team veterans at this point, numerically U23’s but professionally well advanced.

Chelsea have had two major failures in their loan system: It is too big, and they mire players in it for too long. By age 23, loanees should either be in the first team or sold. If the players are not Chelsea-ready by that age, another year at Trabsponzor or Rotherham is not going to magically make them ready to face Manchester City or Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues will have no justification for prolonging Kenedy’s or Loftus-Cheek’s stay in the loan army beyond this season. Or, for that matter, Marco van Ginkel’s, Kurt Zouma’s or Mario Pasalic’s.

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Newcastle and Crystal Palace (and PSV) would be thrilled to make these loans permanent. The players would probably welcome the move as well, as it would eliminate the uncertainty that hangs over every loanee. A permanent transfer not only settles where they will play for the next few years, but eliminates the questions of whether they will play from week to week. Only at Chelsea would players like these linger on the fringes.

If Chelsea are not serious about promoting Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek or van Ginkel to the first team and giving them a solid role there, they should sell them. They will command a healthy profit and a minimal amount of negotiation. Wins all around.

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The club may feel it is a black eye to sell Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who far so long was held up to be the next John Terry. But if he is not to be the next JT, it is better that he be someone else’s Frank Lampard. Otherwise he would be on the path to being the next Marko Marin, and that would be a disgrace to Chelsea FC.

*BINO = Blue-in-Name-Only