Ghana winger Christian Atsu is lucky to have finally found a home in Tyncastle after serial loan spells.
Chelsea and Newcastle United made his loan a permanent transfer, meaning he will play for his own club for the first time since 2013.
For every Nathaniel Chalobah or Victor Moses, there are plenty more loanees like Christian Atsu. Chelsea purchased Atsu in 2013 and immediately loaned him to Vitesse. He played on Vitesse’s squad alongside six other Chelsea loanees.
Of those six, three are still in the Chelsea loan army. None are in the Chelsea squad. Bertrand Traore is the only one of that Chelsea platoon with a realistic chance of playing for the Blues.
Christian Atsu will at least have the opportunity to play in the Premier League next season. Former Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez led Newcastle back to the top flight after a single season in the Championship.
Atsu made 32 appearances in the 2016/17, after only 57 total appearances in the last three seasons on loan at Vitesse, Everton, Bournemouth and Malaga.
Atsu’s loan career at Vitesse started promisingly. He played in 30 games, scored five goals and was the team’s player of the season. Chelsea moved him to the Premier League for the following campaign.
His progression stumbled at Everton due to injury. Seven of his 12 appearances were in the Europa League. Atsu’s injury woes continued the following season at Bourmeouth, which he left in the January window for Malaga in La Liga.
Chelsea did two things belatedly right in handling the end of Atsu’s time with the club. First, they sold him. It is, admittedly, a low bar. But we applaud any time Chelsea permanently transfers a serial loanee with little chance of making the first team.
If the loan army exists to develop and evaluate players, at some point the club has enough information to make a decision. When they do, they must act.
Too often, Chelsea keeps players in the loan system well past their window of opportunity to play at Stamford Bridge or command their peak transfer fee.
Second, Chelsea sold him to his loan club, with the added bonus being that he earned promotion there. One of Chelsea’s greatest loan army bottle jobs was sending Tomas Kalas back to the Championship with Fulham after earning promotion with Middlesbrough.
Players on loan develop ties to their adopted clubs. Given the quality of Chelsea’s loanees, many of them become fan favourites and win end-of-season awards, as Atsu did at Vitesse.
After years as a journeyman loanee, at least Atsu will not have to start from scratch at a new club.
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