Last summer Chelsea spent £40m on a player they now hope never comes comes back to London.
The player is Tiémoué Bakayoko, who, despite a torrid first season, had a logical place in Antonio Conte’s setup. But he’s a fish out of water in Maurizio Sarri’s system. Since the club hope and anticipate that Sarri will continue his winning ways and eventually score trophies, Baka became a problem in need of a solution.
In August, Chelsea engineered a loan-to-buy with AC Milan that could both recoup the player’s cost and solve the roster dilemma.
But... and at this point it’s a big but... the thing depends on Milan wanting to exercise their buy option on Bakayoko next summer. If they don’t, he returns to London as a misfit midfielder that Chelsea spent a lot of money on.
Right now, the signs don’t look good. On Saturday Baka came on with Milan nursing a 2-1 lead over Napoli and hoping to shut the game down. They couldn’t, losing 3-2. Afterwards, Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso went public with his dissatisfaction with the young Frenchman, saying it will take longer than a week to iron out the “defects” in his game.
“Bakayoko has to learn how to get the ball. We must work correctly. It will not be easy. One week is not enough to remove the defects of a player. I would have preferred to be managing older, more experienced club players.”
It’s no secret that Baka is prone to confidence problems. That was obvious when his play deteriorated last season. Getting called out by his new manager, in his first match of the season, surely wasn’t the best way to bring him along.
It looks like the fiery Gattuso has finally figured that out.
#Gattuso: "Some people misunderstood what I said about @TimoeB08. I didn't blame him. I meant that it's not easy to play in a new league and in a new country. He needs time, that's all. Bakayoko and this team have already improved a lot and I'm happy"#MilanRoma— AC Milan (@acmilan) August 30, 2018
In his pre-match press conference ahead of Friday night’s tilt against Roma, he backtracked.
“I noticed he was upset when I saw him in training after the last match. I didn’t blame him. I never point at my players. I meant that it’s not easy to play in a new league and get used to new working methods.
“He needs time, that’s all. Bakayoko and this team have already improved a lot and I’m happy.”
Apparently, complaining about a player’s “defects” before the assembled media isn’t pointing at his players. Huh.
At any rate, with his manager looking to reset the relationship and get the best out of his player, maybe the loan-to-buy isn’t as doomed as it appeared on Saturday. If it goes through, it could still be a win for Milan, Chelsea and Bakayoko all.