Eden Hazard. Thorgan Hazard. Romelu Lukaku. Kevin De Bruyne. Thibaut Courtois. All come; all gone. But Charly Musonda Jr is still here. Well, out on loan. But still on Chelsea’s books. Of all the Belgian players who were signed by Chelsea in the early 2010s, the former wonderkid is the only one who still remains as we approach the end of the decade.
Some of that has to do with his age: still two months shy of 23. Some of that has to do with his years in the academy — one of our own! Some of that has to do with his series of failed and disappointing loans, which have knocked the initial promise and luster off his career. And some of that has to do with the knee injury that practically caused him to miss all of last season.
Now healthy and refocused and back at Vitesse, Charly’s looking to rebuild it all.
“The last year has been the toughest of my life. I’ve suffered a lot this year. Sometimes, it can get very lonely. Every morning I woke up with the same thought: to play. It’s only when it’s taken away that you understand how much you love football. I didn’t realise how much I could miss it.”
“Even if you lose a normal match 5-0, you can start building towards the next game straight away. But when you’re injured, it’s just you. You train separately, you feel alone. There’s no companionship. That’s the hardest part.”
“Now I’m at Vitesse, I don’t feel stuck or left behind because I know once I’m playing again, soon everybody will be watching.”
That bit of confidence, often interpreted as arrogance or immaturity in the past, even, is still there. Despite all that’s happened — he was supposed to be a superstar by now! — Charly’s undeterred. We would expect nothing less of course.
“I just want one more chance to play for Chelsea. Before my time had always been about progression. There’d never been any setbacks. I’ve changed a lot but that’s normal. I’m a better person now as well as a better player.
“If I can come back, it will be a testament to my talent but it will also show the type of person I have become.”
Part of that maturity is understanding how narratives evolve. When you pose yourself as the next big thing, people will pay attention. And if things don’t work out, there will be criticisms, or worse.
“I don’t think pressure is something that ever fazed me. You bring it on yourself when you play a certain type of way. If I was a more reserved player, or a little bit more nervous, the hype might have affected me a little bit more.
“But if you’re a skilful player and you want to be somebody who expresses yourself, you have to be willing to accept that there’s going to be hype and criticism. I wanted it to be in the situation where eyes were on me.”
“[....] when you’re a player who expresses yourself and has that bit of arrogance, criticism goes hand in hand. People say things like ‘he’s unprofessional’ but that’s football, people are always going to talk. It’s up to me to make things happen.”
Musonda has no regrets about how his career has turned out so far — not the time under Gus Poyet at Real Betis (“sad moment”) or even the six months at Celtic (“you can’t dwell on it”) — but he’s using all the disappointments and the setbacks to build himself up to an even better and stronger standard.
“I know people will doubt me because, after a year-and-a-half, they don’t know if I’m still the same player. But deep down, I know how good I can be. I want to show the world what I can do and, if I prove I’m still the same Charly Musonda, I’m 100% confident I can break back into the Chelsea team.
“Maybe it’s me being a bit naive or overconfident or just believing I can do it, but that has been my dream since I was 15 years old and that’s never changed.
“I want to wear the Chelsea shirt one more time.”
-Charly Musonda; source: Independent
Having followed and hoped and dream alongside Charly Jr since 2012, we certainly know what he can do. Hopefully that next chance will indeed come.
He’s featured as a substitute in all three of Vitesse’s matches so far this season, so he’s off to a decent start.
Good luck, Charly! We are rooting for you.