The more I look at the stories surrounding the loan of Oriol Romeu to Valencia CF, the more I think that he's played his last game for Chelsea Football Club. While on paper it may only be a loan, just about everything about it actually screams future permanent transfer.
Romeu is basically the Spanish Crown Prince of Aragón at this point. Born in a small town halfway between Barcelona and Valencia, he can soon claim to have played in both. He spent his pre-teens at RCD Espanyol, then upgraded to FC Barcelona as a teenager. His progress through the ranks for both club and country was steady and unrelenting. His transfer to Chelsea (and away from the long shadow Sergio Busquets) came out of the blue; hardly anyone knew who he was although André Villas-Boas was a fan. Later, Benítez was, too. Unfortunately for young Oriol, neither manager could do much about the constant stream of injuries that culminated in a blown ACL last December.
All along it turns out, Valencia CF were keen as well. Superdeporte reports that Romeu had wasted no time in considering any other destinations than Valencia for this year's loan and that the club had tried to sign him twice before already. The first time they lost out to Chelsea, the second time they lost out to the aforementioned ACL injury and the fact that Romeu was preferred once again.
Now that they got their man, Valencia announced Romeu with fanfare reserved for significant signings. About 2000 people showed up when he was paraded around publicly at the Mestalla. The acquisition has been met with near universal approval and excitement based on a quick glance at supporters' comments. Romeu himself seems very excited, partly thanks to Juan Mata's glowing reviews, and believes that he's doing the right thing for his career.
Valencia's sporting director Braulio Vazquez claims to have been working this deal for "many months" and that the last-minute delay was regarding a future purchase option. Chelsea's reluctance to agree to one is good business; we know that Romeu has plenty of potential and should this loan turn permanent, we would want to receive fair value in return for our initial €5 million investment. Romeu has impressed, at times tremendously, at all levels of football so far. Should his season at Valencia go as well as planned and hoped, his value will be far beyond anything that could reasonably be negotiated right now.
Everybody involved in the deal seems to be speaking and behaving with a strong undercurrent of permanence. With Romeu's contract due to run out in the summer of 2015, Chelsea will be facing a tough decision in about twelve months. A decision that I think looks ever more likely to end in a sale.