Chelsea have made a recent habit of snapping up talented young players from around the world. It's become almost silly -- Eden Hazard, Oscar, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, Andre Schurrle, Juan Mata, Kevin de Bruyne are some of the higher-profile names -- and Marco van Ginkel (who still hasn't been given a number) is just the latest to be added to that extraordinary list of talent.
Within Chelsea's youth movement, however, there appear to be two tiers. There's a group of first-team ready players, able to slot in and help immediately, and then there's a second tier who require loans in order to make rapid progress. The Belgian trio are the biggest names in the loan group, but there are plenty more sign-and-loan players about.
So, is van Ginkel, who signed a five-year-contract on Friday, in group one or two? There's no doubt that the Eredivisie is a step or two below the Premier League, so it's only natural that there's some question about whether or not he can hack it in England straight off the bat. But it's hardly an path untravelled. Oscar made a similar jump last season from the Brasileiro, and Jose Mourinho's successfully integrated young Dutch players into his first team setup before. Or so I seem to recall, at least.
The quotes we're getting support the idea that van Ginkel will join Schurrle in providing immediate reinforcement rather than heading out on loan. Here's the official site:
What are your personal targets this season?
I want to learn a lot, to develop myself. I want to play games and not only sit on the bench, that's what I hope for, to play in games at these great stadiums and hopefully be important for the team, whether it is from the bench or from the start.
... and a (google translated and then heavily cleaned up) release from van Ginkel's agency:
In the conversations he had with van Ginkel, Mourinho clearly hinted that there would be a role for him next season at Chelsea. There has never been any question of Van Ginkel was going to be.That the negotiations might have lasted a little longer than planned was due to the fact that van Ginkel first wanted to know what the manager's plans for the near future. But it soon became clear that Mourinho was confident in van Ginekl and that he wants to fit him into the first team of Chelsea step by step. He wasn't interested in a loan deal.
Which seems clear enough. If van Ginkel joins the first team and, as expected, Oriol Romeu heads out on loan, the central midfield situation looks like this:
- Frank Lampard
- John Obi Mikel
- Marco van Ginkel
- Michael Essien
There's some possibility of a few other names appearing in there, but David Luiz, Oscar and de Bruyne are all long-term projects rather than true central midfielders, and the likes of Nathaniel Chalobah and Josh McEachran still probably aren't ready for serious first-team action. Despite van Ginkel's addition, then, we still look pretty light so far as defensive midfielders go, especially if we treat Essien's health as a happy bonus rather than relying on it.
In other words, despite van Ginkel's addition, there's every reason to believe that the Blues will still be looking to add another midfielder this summer. Should be interesting.