Gabriel Slonina is just one of the many, many, many highly rated young players Chelsea have signed in the past six-seven months, but as the only goalkeeper of the bunch, Gaga may yet end up playing a very large role at some point in the future.
How soon that future might arrive is anyone’s guess, but for now, the 18-year-old is just enjoying settling in, getting to know his new surroundings and teammates. And it sounds like that’s going quite swimmingly, with some good vibes during his first month or so with the team.
“It’s gone great so far.All the goalkeepers, the entire coaching staff and team are top professionals. They want you to improve so being around that environment for the past month has been amazing. I think I’ve made huge strides, improving as a player and in a personal field so hopefully I continue to keep doing that working with this group of guys. It’s honestly been amazing.
“I think I’ve improved in everything, just being able to see the little things that I didn’t even think about before and working on those, tweaking them to make me quicker, to make me stronger, to make me more powerful.”
“Wearing a Chelsea shirt and playing with whatever squad is always going to be an amazing experience and the boys there are lovely. Right away I felt part of the team, part of the brotherhood so it’s really good. [...] it’s been an incredible journey and honestly it still doesn’t feel real, coming in and training at the Chelsea facilities. I watched this team growing up and it’s a dream come true.”
-Gabriel Slonina; source: Chelsea FC
Slonina has been training with the first-team while making one appearance for the under-21s over the past month. Presumably, his involvement will continue at that pace for the rest of the season, to get him truly acclimated to his new environment and life-situation. Moving country (and continent) at 18 is not the easiest thing even for a very mature and confident young man like Gaga.
And I suppose Chelsea’s goalkeeper situation isn’t necessarily too settled so there may be opportunity for Gaga sooner than we might imagine. Marcus Bettinelli’s contract is up in the summer, Édouard Mendy is closer to leaving than starting again, and Kepa Arrizabalaga’s redemption arc doesn’t necessarily make him our long-term solution either. Kepa and Edou will both have just two years left on their current deals at the end of the season, which could mean that some important decisions will have to be made.