Chelsea have a fair few forgotten men at the club owing to endless cycles of loan deals and one of the most high-profile of them all is arguably Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The Blues splashed out £40million on the French midfielder in July 2017 as Antonio Conte bolstered his Premier League title-winning midfield, bringing in the then 22-year-old on a five-year deal.
Bakayoko was Chelsea’s second most expensive player of all time when he joined, costing just £10million less than Fernando Torres.
At his signing, former Blues technical director Michael Emenalo said: “Tiemoue was outstanding as Monaco emerged as one of Europe’s best sides last season and we are delighted to welcome him to Chelsea
“Despite his young age he already has plenty of experience as a French title winner and having competed in the latter stages of the Champions League, we believe he will add considerable quality to our squad.”
To say things haven’t quite gone to plan for Bakayoko since then at Stamford Bridge would be somewhat of an understatement.
In February 2018, Bakayoko had an absolute nightmare in a 4-1 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road. He gave the ball away seven times and was sent off inside half an hour for two, admittedly soft, fouls but both came after he had lost the ball.
Mike Dean effectively put Bakayoko out of his misery by sending him off for two yellow cards. In all, Bakyoko had 28 touches, losing the ball seven times and failing with four of his attempted 12 passes.
Another poor outing against Newcastle United on the final day of the season saw his stock fall even lower despite making 43 appearances in the campaign.
Prior to the 2018/19 season, Bakayoko was shipped out on loan to AC Milan and began his journey as part of the Blues’ Loan Army.
After a slow start for Milan, he improved and was very much a regular for the Rossonieri. He made 42 appearances across the board for the Italian side, scoring only one goal and helped Milan to the Coppa Italia semi final, where they were beaten by Lazio.
But that wasn’t enough to earn him a place back at Chelsea as Frank Lampard took the same view as Maurizio Sarri, who had replaced Conte at the helm, that Bakayoko was expendable.
Former manager Lampard said of allowing Bakoyoko to head back to former employers Monaco for the season that it was to “try to bring himself back to where he wants to be.”
Bakayoko would play 23 times for Monaco but they didn’t activate the reported €42.5million permanent clause in his loan deal and back he went to London for yet another pre-season.
Once again though, his immediate future was away from west London, perhaps not quite getting back to where Lampard wanted him to get to and off Bakoyoko went again, this time to Napoli where he would be reunited with Genarro Gattusso, who was his manager at AC Milan where the Frenchman had arguably his most fruitful loan spell.
Now, having made 44 appearances for the Naples side last season, Bakayoko is back for his fifth – and potentially his last – pre-season at Chelsea.
Now 27, the midfielder is arguably in his last chance saloon at Chelsea and he only has three weeks to prove it to another new head coach in Thomas Tuchel.
Bakayoko reported back for training alongside Chelsea’s international stars on Saturday having been thought to have been serving a period of self-isolation that covered the first ten days of pre-season training.
Entering the last year of his contract that Chelsea handed him in 2017, it really is now or never for Bakayoko if he is to become the Nemanja Matic-replacement he was bought to be by Conte.
Neither Sarri nor Lampard saw fit to include Bakayoko in their squad and the club were happy for him to live a life on loan. Perhaps Tuchel sees things differently: “Some of them have done two or three pre-seasons here already,” he said at the weekend.
“Some of them want to look absolutely for the chance to stay, some of them want to maybe leave. They’re humans, they’re not robots and that’s why we have to accept it’s not the easiest situation for them.
“I don’t judge on where you come from or what your history is, or what you earn or what your status is. I’m in charge of this group so they get my 100 per cent. I give my everything, they give it back, they make me smile, I give even more, that makes them smile, they give even more.
Speaking during his loan spell in Naples, Bakayoko’s brother and agent Abdoulaye claimed his brother was in a “good moment.”
“Tiemoue scored in his last game with Napoli and the team are back in the top four.
“It’s been a nice season, Tiemoue feels at ease in the city and the team. However, I don’t know if he will remain at Napoli. If they qualify for the Champions League things could change.
“He wants to play in the Champions League, but it also depends on Napoli and Chelsea.
“Napoli don’t have an option to sign him permanently, Tiémoué is happy, but he is aware his destiny depends on what Chelsea and Napoli want to do.”
If Chelsea are to get a fee back for Bakayoko then they have two options – either sell him this summer to a buyer or extend his contract by another year and keep some value in him next summer if the club loans him out once again.
Chelsea extended the deal of Olivier Giroud earlier this year before he joined Milan for a fee of £2million plus significant add-ons. Many Blues youngsters have also seen their contracts extended before heading out on loan, though some have decided to move on permanently such as Lewis Bate and Marc Guehi, with Tino Livramento set to follow suit.
Tuchel has offered a clean slate to everyone since he arrived at the club, be it if they were a part of the squad he inherited from Lampard in January and took to Champions League glory (see Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta as prime examples) and will extend the same fairness to Bakayoko.
But the Frenchman is already on the back foot having only just joined back in with training at Cobham. Neither Tuchel nor Bakayoko have a lot of time.
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Source by Football London