Chelsea should reward Kenneth Omeruo’s good will by selling him to Leganes

VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Kenneth Omeruo of Nigeria during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Nigeria and Iceland at Volgograd Arena on June 22, 2018 in Volgograd, Russia. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA - JUNE 22: Kenneth Omeruo of Nigeria during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Nigeria and Iceland at Volgograd Arena on June 22, 2018 in Volgograd, Russia. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

Chelsea finally had someone speak well of the role of the loan army in player development. Even so, Kenneth Omeruo is ready for his time as a loanee to end.

Few players have been at Chelsea longer than Kenneth Omeruo, and few players have spent as little time at Chelsea as Kenneth Omeruo. Omeruo signed with the Blues on January 8, 2012, and the next day went on loan to ADO Den Haag. Twenty-two months later he played his only game in Chelsea Blue: a Premier League 2 fixture against West Ham. The lineup from November 1, 2013, is a who’s who of the loan army: Nathan Ake, John Swift, Lewis Baker, Fankaty Dabo and Jeremie Boga all started that day. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Isaiah Brown came off the bench, while Ola Aina was an unused substitute.

In terms of first-team playing minutes, Omeruo turned out the best of that matchday squad. Two months after that PL2 game he went on loan to Middlesbrough, starting 14 league games in the second half of the season. The next year he had 19 appearances for Middlesbrough, followed by years as a regular at Kasimpasa, Alanyaspor, Kasimpasa again and now Leganes.

Of that PL2 matchday squad, only Nathan Ake comes close to as many minutes – let alone minutes with first division teams – as Omeruo.

But all good things must come to an end and, unusually, Omeruo sees his time in the loan army as a good thing.

"It is good for the players to go on multiple loans because if you play in the Under 21s in Chelsea, you really don’t get a lot of experience doing that. But going out on loan, you meet people, you play in different leagues, improve yourself and you know different culture. It is very good for players to go on loans and I am a good example. I don’t wait around for them to tell me to go on loan, I just look for a club who wants me and I go. – Tribal Football"

Perhaps Omeruo is keeping it too real. He is exactly right in saying U21’s do not gain enough experience. For most players in Chelsea’s pipeline, the question is at what age and after how many games will they plateau playing with the U21’s. Eventually, usually long before they age out of the U21’s, they need to go on loan to keep their development on track.

But Omeruo’s sanguinity speaks to the block at the end of the loan road. Even successful loans do not pave the way to Stamford Bridge. Omeruo seems to know the purpose of the loans are to develop him into a first division regular somewhere in Europe, maybe in England, but not at Chelsea.

With this perspective in mind, he eagerly courts his loans, looking for the opportunities that will give him the chance to improve by playing in different leagues with different cultures among different people. Chelsea may not care about that, but some club eventually will.

Omeruo is now turning his attention to finding that club. In a separate interview, Omeruo spoke about how – at age 25 with a family – the loan life is no longer appropriate for him.

"I deserve stability in my career as a footballer… After enduring instability with different loan moves, it’s time to finally settle down with my young family. – BBC"

“I deserve stability.” That could be the motto of the loan army, especially the players in their mid-20’s who joined Chelsea as teenagers and have rarely if ever donned Blue. Tomas Kalas (now the longest-serving Blue, with four appearances), Mario Pasalic, Lucas Piazon and – barring their return to the first team – Victor Moses and Alvaro Morata deserve stability.

Omeruo credits Chelsea for supporting him and giving him a decent amount of autonomy with his career. He hopes they will continue to respect his decisions as he pushes for a permanent move to Leganes.

Kenneth Omeruo understands better than most what the loan army is really about, and this opens the door for him to speak well of it. Or at least not bitterly and cynically.

The best thing Chelsea can do from a player management and public relations perspective is to sell Omeruo to Leganes if they do not have the transfer ban, or extend his loan there one more year and let Leganes sign him for free when his contract expires in June 2020.

Next. £100 million for Eden Hazard will still leave Chelsea empty-handed. dark

Omeruo is the rare player who will give positive testimony to the loan army. With players increasingly bailing out of the club as teenagers to avoid the loan system, Chelsea need an easy win and Omeruo is making it as easy as possible. So easy, only Chelsea could foul it up.