It is becoming a tradition at the bridge. U24 players don’t have the time to hone their game anymore. This impair quest for glory from the fans confine their breathing space. It’s either you justify your transfer fee immediately – or you’re wanted out after a season.
Chelsea have a strong affection for young players. Or rather the owner, Roman Abramovich – has a special zeal for developing young footballers from the academy. “He would not abandon it, He believed in it and in me,” said Micheal Emenalo, former Chelsea director.
The fondness spread to the transfer department. But the ‘But’ in the system emerges when these future stars weren’t permitted to develop. Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah are few instances.
In the summer of 2018. Chelsea first-team goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois – ceased to return to London after the World Cup. He insisted not turning up to training, a scenario best described as ‘forcing a move’. The saga took place during the final week of the transfer window. The window would close on August 9, Courtois left Chelsea on August 8. Chelsea were left hastily in search for a new goalkeeper.
The viable names briskly shortlisted by the media for his replacement were; Kasper Schmeichel, Petr Cech and Jack Butland. Schmeichel would be the favourite. The then 31-year-old was already in his prime. He revealed he would love to play European football. He just contributed impressively to Denmark’s World Cup campaign.
But how the window ended proved Chelsea didn’t want ‘just an immediate’ replacement for Courtois, but a long term figure. The club snubbed all the options available for a cheaper price – and then proceeded to trigger a
E71m release clause of a 23-year-old mid-table club goalkeeper.
He signed a rare 7-year contract. It means he is contracted to the club till his 30th birthday. “His long term contract reflects the belief we have in him,” said Marina Gravnoskaia, “..he will be a big part of any success Chelsea have in the coming years.”
But, like how the fans bit other’s head, Kepa is no exception. They can’t bear to watch him at the goal again. Influencers got #KepaOut hashtag trending on Twitter. Their protest reframed the situation and made it look like: if Kepa leaves the club, then the team thrives. “Kepa is the epicentre of our problems.” “There is no more time to waste on him, he’s not the guy.”
From that point of view, I understand everything. I can relate to it all. I know the statistics. I get the hassle for a goalkeeper to stand still not diving for a shot. I can explain my heart condition when the opposition strikes a shot at our goal. I lived the disappointment of seeing zero improvement as each week passes by.
But there is always a different perspective, and it’s right to gauge if this vista weighs enough. Maybe we, as fans need to understand what the board of directors are doing. “Kepa is a talent we have admired for a long time..,” said Marina. A proof that he is a project backed by the board.
As supporters, we can’t benefit from premature conclusions every time. Kepa Arrizabalaga has a 5-year contract left at the club – the same length of contract Kai Havertz signed yesterday. Remember Chelsea invested a world-record fee for a goalkeeper on him. He still has 3 years of development before hitting his prime. If we show him the door now, we are the losing party.