Michael Hector unofficially joined Fulham on Thursday after four years, four loans and zero Chelsea appearances. That puts him squarely in the middle when ranking the 2015/16 arrivals.
Somehow Chelsea missed the transfer window deadline when it came to moving a player who has been with the club four years one-and-a-half miles down the Fulham Road. Michael Hector will start living the life of a Cottager this week, but will not play for Fulham until they can register him in January.
Hector was part of Chelsea’s desultory transfer class of 2015/16. Many of the Blues’ greatest sources of transfer and loan banter arrived in those windows. Compared to fellow arrivals Papy Djilobodji, Abdul Baba Rahman, Matt Miazga, Nathan and Kenedy, Hector’s relative anonymity in the subsequent four years is to his credit. And those are just the players Chelsea purchased. The 2015/16 windows also saw the regrettable loan arrivals of Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato.
Pedro and Asmir Begovic were the productive exceptions to the rule. Both players stayed with the first team throughout, with Pedro obviously adding to his haul en route to becoming the Premier League’s most decorated player, completing his one-of-everything career set with last season’s Europa League.
Among the others, Baba Rahman and Kenedy came closest to having a Chelsea career. They have nearly identical appearance stats: Baba Rahman made 23 appearances for 1,716 minutes, while Kenedy made 27 appearances for 1,406 minutes.
Kenedy always seemed much closer to finding his way back to Stamford Bridge, but this is something he and Baba Rahman can debate in a couple weeks when Getafe (Kenedy’s current loan club) hosts RCD Mallorca (Baba’s home for the season) in La Liga.
Even before joining Chelsea, Hector’s career was a dark caricature of a serial loanee. Hector completed nine loans while under contract at Reading from 2009 to 2015. Chelsea loaned him back to Reading immediately upon signing him. Of his 304 senior level appearances, 93 were for Reading. Over one-third of those (35) were while on loan from Chelsea, meaning only 58 games in his entire career have been for the team with whom he signed a permanent contract.
Hopefully Hector’s wandering days are over now that he is at Fulham, age 27. The Cottagers are starting the season with only three centre-backs, so they will likely need Hector to enter the side quickly in January to cover rotation coming out of the festive period, let alone any injuries and any successful cup runs.
For Chelsea, selling Michael Hector is another important step towards returning some normalcy and purpose to the loan system. The club will still have the loan system both as a financial engine and a development system, but without the parodic bloat.
Manchester City seems to be moving towards the old Chelsea way of stockpiling young players first in the academy, then on loans. Not that FIFA or UEFA will ever crack down on Manchester City for Financial Fair Play shenanigans, but it is telling that they are copying the Blues’ old end-around on FFP just as Chelsea start bringing their operations in line with proper football practices, never mind FIFA / UEFA administrivia.
If Chelsea can avoid any more transfer windows like that of 2015/16 – or at least have a better ratio of Pedro’s to Papy’s – they can avoid having to do another housecleaning years down the road.