Michy Batshuayi may be forced out of Chelsea this summer
Bubbling away under the surface at Stamford Bridge last season, there was a big decision for Antonio Conte. Developments since the Italian celebrated his first title as Chelsea boss suggest he was always going to spend big on a striker this summer; the only question was whom it would be.
For a man like Conte, performances on the pitch alone are never enough. He needs followers, players who if he asked to jump, they would ask how high. Diego Costa, a man who admitted to an attempt at forcing a move back to Atletico Madrid last summer before falling out with Conte over a speculated switch to China, did not fit the bill despite playing a vital role in winning the Premier
League by scoring 20 goals. As soon as his job was done, Conte informed him, rather coldly, his future lay away from West London.
Rumours are only ever as strong as those generating them, but it felt, in some quarters, like Romelu Lukaku’s return to the Blues from Everton was a foregone conclusion. Even before a bid had been made, there was a real acceptance the Belgian would be re-joining the club three years after leaving.
On the other hand, Alvaro Morata would team up with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. Many were left surprised when the complete opposite actually happened.
What does Conte do?
While Costa’s situation is looking all the more certain, Conte does have another big question to answer and that is what happens to Michy Batshuayi. Chelsea have had a plethora of big money strikers since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, but Batshuayi’s spell to date must be up there with the most disappointing.
Lukaku’s international teammate cost Conte £33million from Marseille last summer, and it wasn’t as if he arrived under the radar. Premier League interest wasn’t new, with Arsenal and Tottenham, West Ham and Newcastle all reportedly keeping tabs on him as he netted 17 goals in just 36 Ligue 1 games in 2015/16.
Yet, there was never really a time when it felt he would get a real opportunity last term, playing just 20 games and scoring five times. In Costa’s absence, Conte often chose to play Eden Hazard as a false nine, and was even allegedly keen to let Batshuayi join Swansea City on loan in the winter in exchange for Fernando Llorente.
For long spells, it has felt as though he has compromised his own development as a striker by joining Chelsea. Morata’s past relationship with Conte, having worked with him at Juventus, and his club-record initial £58million fee, will ensure he is first choice next season.
The World Cup is approaching
Batshuayi cannot afford another season like the last one, especially at his age, 23, and with a World Cup approaching in a year’s time.
Looking at him, it is easy to see why Chelsea and so many other clubs were so keen on his signature last summer. While not particularly imposing like a Lukaku or a Didier Drogba, the striker who has cast such a shadow at Stamford Bridge over recent years, he can definitely hold his own physically.
His finishing ability when given an opportunity is second to none. In his last five games, albeit some friendlies, he has scored six goals, including the title-clincher in May’s
victory against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.
It does appear as if his future at Chelsea is bleak, but neither the Blues nor any buying club should not underestimate Batshuayi. If he is to be sold, it is unlikely to be at a knockdown price despite enduring such a tough season.
Whoever is brave enough to part with the relevant money to lure him away will be getting a top of the range striker on the cusp of his best years in need of first team football. Once he gets that, he’ll be back scoring goals on a regular basis.
A consistent XI is a trait of Chelsea
No matter who the manager is, Chelsea have always been a tough club to play for throughout the Abramovich years.
Rather than rotation, they have preferred a set first eleven, and while defenders and midfielders may get game time by virtue of there being more positions, back-up strikers and goalkeepers are often forced to endure lonely spells at the club.
It was for that exact reason why Lukaku joined Everton back in 2014, a move that has done him the world of good in the long run.
Just how good Batshuayi can be is unclear to some extent. He is older than Lukaku was when he left Chelsea, but following that move could have a similar impact on his career.
If Conte utilises him better this season, he could be a real asset, but it appears that, with Costa heading out and Morata coming in, he will still be sitting behind a Spain international in the pecking order.
Lots of strikers take time to hit their stride and need to find a new home to really get there. Morata is no different, having tried and failed in two separate spells to break into the Real Madrid side. I
ronically his signing might be the final straw for Michy Batshuayi and Chelsea, especially if he wants to maintain a career at Champions League level. As time goes on, it looks more and more likely
that he may be wearing a different shirt come September.