In an alternate universe, referee Craig Pawson decides to not show a red card to Gary Cahill just 14 minutes into Chelsea’s title defense in 2017-18, Jeremie Boga doesn’t get sacrificed for the subsequent defensive substitution, Chelsea do not go on to lose 3-2 to Burnley, Antonio Conte does not fall out with the club’s hierarchy, and Boga himself embarks on a fruitful senior Chelsea career that his talent had always demanded.
Boga’s debut, a shock start handed to him by Conte in Chelsea’s first match of the 2017-18 season with Eden Hazard and Pedro both injured, lasted just that quarter of an hour. A couple weeks later, he’d be on his way to Birmingham City on loan. A year later, he’d be joining Sassuolo on a cut-rate transfer of just £3.5m.
Another jewel of the Chelsea Academy, gone.
Boga’s first season in Serie A was decent enough, but his second has been even better. In fact, with his goal this weekend against Juventus — a cheeky little chip that even Ramires would be proud of — he’s already set a new career high for goals scored with four. And it’s only the first of December. (Sassuolo would go on to draw 2-2 with Maurizio Sarri’s league leaders to put Antonio Conte’s chasers back on top by one point after 14 played!)
Times were drastically different when Boga left Chelsea for good, having spent the previous three seasons on loan at three different teams in three different countries (Rennes, Granada, Birmingham City), though the young man himself admits that he possibly wasn’t quite ready for prime time just yet.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t be in the future! It’s a possibility he’s certainly not ruling out.
“It’s true that it’s a shame [that it didn’t work out]. After that I have no regrets. Everything in its time. It certainly was not the time for me to play Chelsea.
“I always keep it in a corner of my mind. If I continue to do what I do, work hard, maybe I’ll go back one day.”
Until then, Boga’s keeping one eye on Chelsea as his former Academy teammates, including fellow 97er Tammy Abraham, take center stage at Stamford Bridge.
“For those who do not know [Tammy], it’s impressive what he does. I’ve known him since we were little, we are of the same generation 97 in Chelsea. I know his potential. He has always been a scorer, scoring 20-25 goals per season in all categories of youth. So what he does today does not surprise me. I am very happy for him.”
-Jeremie Boga; source: FootMercato via Google Translate
Boga spent almost a decade at Cobham, joining as a pre-teen when his family moved from Marseille to London and leaving at age 21. A month shy of his 23rd birthday, he’s once again starting to turn heads around Europe. Perhaps we will not have seen the last of him at Stamford Bridge!