I've now had a bit to ponder Chelsea's dealings on deadline day, and really that means I've had some time to think about the Michael Essien loan. I think many of us expected the possibility that Essien could be moved on Friday, but I certainly didn't anticipate the chance that Essien could be heading out on loan prior to the rumor mill firing up early in the day.
In and of itself, a loan of Essien makes some sense. He's a player rehabbing a serious knee injury, and frankly he's looked like a shell of his former self since he returned last Spring. He looked a bit better during the pre-season, but he still didn't much resemble the Essien of old. Loaning Essien to a side where he'd see some regular minutes would allow us a better look at whether or not he's still going to be of use to Chelsea, and frankly just getting the games would probably be for the best as far as Essien himself is concerned.
But then word leaked that the loan was to Real Madrid. For those of you not aware, Real Madrid are pretty well stocked in the midfield. Just how stocked are they? Well they're stocked enough that they were willing to send Nuri Sahin on loan for the season so that he'd be able to even sniff the pitch. That's the same Nuri Sahin who would likely start the majority of matches for our own Chelsea, where Michael Essien is apparently not even in the plans.
The coaching staff at Chelsea see Essien in training every day. If they don't think that Essien will ever be of starting quality at Chelsea again, I really have a hard time making a case for disagreeing with them. I think most of us are holding out some hope that Essien would return to his previous form, but he's yet to show anything on the pitch that would suggest that it's coming.
But this brings us back to the issue I find the most confusing...why Real Madrid? If the idea is to showcase Essien in hopes of selling him next season, there would seem to be quite a few options where he'd see a lot more time on the pitch than Madrid. If the idea is to let him get some minutes so we can further evaluate if he's worth hanging onto, there are loads of places where he'd get more minutes than Real Madrid.
The only thing that I can think of here is that Essien may have wanted to leave with the amount of minutes it looked as if he might get (or not get) at Chelsea this season. I have a huge respect for the player and all he's done for our club, and if this is the case I can hardly blame him. He's spent most of the last three seasons recovering from injuries, so it's awfully hard to fault him if he actually wants to spend as much of this year on the pitch as he can.
Unlike most, I'm not all that concerned with the depth we have at central midfield. There's an obvious skillset we could upgrade, but Essien doesn't in any way fill that void. Between John Obi Mikel, Raul Meireles, Oriol Romeu, and Ramires, Chelsea have four players that can probably reproduce anything that Essien brought to the table. As a player, Essien probably isn't all that big a loss to this Chelsea club in his current form.
There is one big bright spot that I can find to this deal, and it's the fact that we haven't actually sold Essien yet. Getting a few pounds for a player we don't seemingly have a use for would make some sense, but as far as FFP is concerned we're likely slightly better off waiting a bit. Chelsea aren't likely to be in any trouble for the initial monitoring periods of FFP, so they really don't need the extra money. Pushing that one time profit into a later window might actually help Chelsea more as far as the books are concerned than selling him right now, as next summer we lose a few more contracts signed prior to June 2010. There's also the off chance that Essien impresses, and at that point we still have a player would could have some use to this squad.
After pondering this for a few days, I understand the reasoning behind loaning Essien. I understand why Chelsea felt they didn't need his services this season. I understand why Essien would want the move. I'm just having a hard time understanding why it was Real Madrid. I'm sure Essien will enjoy re-uniting with Jose Mourinho, and I'm sure all Chelsea fans will wish the pair the best. I just don't think that this was the best destination from a Chelsea perspective. Oh well, I suppose if this is the only move we made during the summer window that confuses me, I should count the window as a massive success. We're alone at the top of the table for the moment, and hopefully we spend the rest of the season that way.