Chelsea Academy graduate Nathaniel Chalobah spent the first four years of his professional career away from the club on various loan stints, including a year-long spell in Italy at Serie A club Napoli last season.
Although Chalobah rarely saw playing time at one of the Italian league’s best teams, just the experience of going abroad and completely out of his comfort zone has been helpful as he continues to work to achieve his ultimate objectives. Chalobah has spoken highly of this experience a few times before (as have others who have gone abroad like Ashley Cole), but here he is young Nathaniel, this time chatting with The Sun.
"Definitely, more English players should go abroad. For me, it was an amazing experience. I learned a new language and went into a changing room where I was out of my comfort zone a bit. I had to deal with a different culture and adapt to being on my own without my family and friends around me."
"It made me grow up. It was such a positive thing. But if you’re going abroad, you’ve got to do it whole-heartedly. It’s really tough. You will want to come home after the first two weeks — but I think a lot more players should try it."
"You are going to have to adapt to different types of football, experience another culture and a different way of how people work, too. It was something I had to take as a challenge. I wanted to say, ‘Yeah, I’ve done this, learned a new language, played in the Italian league and learned a lot’ — and take it on to put it in my locker for the rest of my career."
Chalobah returned to England last summer only to find another Italian coach to impress, this time back at Chelsea. And in one of the more feel-good stories of the preseason, Chalobah won his spot on the team after impressing Antonio Conte with a series of strong performances.
"I’ve learned so much from [Conte] tactically. I’ve learned about winning games and the passion he has rubs off on the rest of the players. He’s very intelligent and studies the teams we have to play. The lads are made to watch clips of our games and it’s highlighted how we can improve."
"The Italian managers always focus on the tactical side a lot more because Serie A is a very tactical league. I worked with Maurizio Sarri at Napoli last year and he taught me a lot on that side of things, too. And it’s just a continued process because that side of my learning curve is continuing under this gaffer."
The years spent on loan were far from easy for Chalobah, as he was constantly on the move, having to adapt to new circumstances and new situations and new clubs. However, he remained positive throughout, and has remained committed to his ultimate aim of making it at Chelsea.
"Some loans were good, some loans were bad, some were up and down. As a player, you can sometimes get caught up in everything and think negative things. I always stayed positive and had the opportunity to come back and play during the club’s pre-season campaigns."
"I didn’t contemplate leaving. I always thought every year that here’s a chance to play in pre-season and show the best I can and stay at the club."
-Nathaniel Chalobah; Source: The Sun
While Chalobah has seemingly fallen back a couple places in the pecking order lately — thanks to strong performances from Fàbregas and Matić and even Loftus-Cheek when called upon — but earlier this season, Conte was often relying on him in important, late-game situations. They were some of the most positive signs we had seen in recent years regarding an Academy graduate finally making that long-awaited breakthrough to the first-team. At 22 years of age and with domestic and foreign experience already under his belt, Chalobah is no doubt up to the challenge of winning increased playing time at Chelsea going forward.