Since signing for Chelsea in 2014, young midfielder Mario Pašalić has made well over 100 appearances combined across some of Europe’s biggest leagues, added another 20 or so to it in European competitions, and notched 6 caps for the Croatian national team. It probably goes without saying that none of those 150+ appearances are for Chelsea.
Initially, it was a work permit issue that prevented him from playing for the Blues. But now, four loan moves deep, he’s just another faceless loan warrior, moving from assignment to assignment, popping up once or twice a season and in the summer to say hi and maybe play a few friendlies.
He’s battled a few injury issues over the past couple years, which limited him during his spells as AS Monaco and AC Milan, but he’s had no ready-made explanation for this season’s mild disappointment at Spartak Moscow. Despite joining the Russian champions in early August, Pašalić started just 8 times in the Russian Premier League (adding 10 more appearances off the bench). On a more positive note, he did start 4 of their 6 Champions League group stage games (valuable experience despite poor results!) as well as 1 of 2 Europa League knockout round games (same). A decent return overall, but nothing to get too excited about.
Spartak, who are managed by Conte’s good friend and former assistant Massimo Carrera, probably won’t repeat as champions, but the part we’re more interested in is what they might do with Pašalić, who apparently has a buy-option built into his loan contract.
But according to Sport Mail (via Sport Witness), Spartak will not be exercising that option and the midfielder will rejoin Chelsea, presumably to take part in the pre-season friendlies and then head out on loan again. Pašalić signed a new four-year contract last summer with the Blues, so we may be repeating this process a few more times yet. He remains stuck in the grey area between obvious top level talent and just about average squad filler, but trending towards the latter.