Belgium coach Marc Wilmots believes Kevin de Bruyne needs first-team football. Marc Wilmots is probably right. And his opinion carries a great deal of weight: If Wilmots is unhappy, de Bruyne's chances of featuring in for his country next summer drop, and that would, one imagines, lead to an unhappy player.
Since he's not getting first-team minutes at Stamford Bridge, the obvious thought is that de Bruyne should be sent out on loan again. The media mooted Anderlecht as a possible destination before it turned out that that was impossible. Now a return to the Bundesliga is being apparently, with Schalke 04 eager to secure a move for the young winger.
The problem with a loan for de Bruyne is that he's already been on loan. He was one of the Bundesliga's best players last season -- what does he have to gain from going back there? This isn't a situation like Romelu Lukaku was facing, where there are clearly deficiencies in his game. De Bruyne doesn't need the experience. All he needs is to play.
So why not play him at Chelsea? I'm not Jose Mourinho and I don't have access to his reasoning, but there doesn't seem to be a particularly compelling reason to be freezing him out. The rest of the attackers have been slumping and de Bruyne hardly embarrassed himself in the early part of the season.
There's also a compelling reason to field de Bruyne more regularly than he has been. Chelsea are a team built to threaten from set pieces, and he's the best set-piece-taker on the side. His corners could be a way of breaking through teams that sit back and defend, a problem for which we still haven't found a solution.
So, de Bruyne needs first team football, but he doesn't need a loan move for development. Chelsea probably need Kevin de Bruyne. What's the sensible move here?