Nick Lustig wrote for the Daily Star in February that the 23-year-old would be returning to Stamford Bridge this summer; however, recent reports indicate that his future lies elsewhere. After the Blues wrapped up the signing of Filipe Luis last week, Van Aanholt told Votebal International (h/t Sky Sports): “Where will I play next season? I don’t know yet. It definitely won’t be at Chelsea. I am done here.”
His frustration is understandable, as he must have seen a chance for himself at Chelsea when Ashley Cole announced his departure. However, nothing in his career so far suggests that Van Aanholt has been treated differently to any other developing player at a top club.
The fact that he has a professional contract puts him ahead of 99 percent of aspiring footballers, per David Conn of The Guardian, but he may need to set his sights away from the Premier League.
Since joining the Blues in 2007, Van Aanholt has made just eight first-team appearances, spending most of his time out on loan. The most successful of these loan spells have come from his time in the Eredivisie with Vitesse Arnhem, and his performances over the course of the 2013-14 season led to his inclusion in the preliminary Dutch squad for the World Cup, according to Reuters (via The Guardian).
Despite this, he has failed to make the 26-man squad for Chelsea’s European pre-season tour.
Per the Squawka comparison matrix, Van Aanholt came out on top in chances created, interceptions and successful take-ons when compared with Cesar Azpilicueta, Cole and new signing Luis last season. It looks as though the Dutchman has been treated unfairly on this evidence alone, until you consider the disparity in quality between the Eredivise, La Liga and the Premier League.
Ajax were the last Eredivise club to appear in the Champions League final, losing to Juventus in 1996. By contrast, teams from La Liga have made 10 appearances in the finals in the 18 years since a Dutch side last appeared, with nine appearances from Premier League clubs. The gulf in the quality of the respective leagues certainly skews the statistics in Van Aanholt’s favour.
It is no secret that Mourinho likes his defenders to defend. Although marauding full-backs have become a crucial part of the modern tactical game, it is vital that they understand their main duty is to protect the flanks.
Van Aanholt’s overall defensive score of 4.42 per game is the lowest of the trio by far, and when you compare it to Azpilicueta’s 16.7 and Luis’ 15.47, it is easy to see why Mourinho prefers them to the Dutchman.
Being a professional footballer is not easy.
Breaking into the first-team at a club like Chelsea is almost impossible when they have the budget to buy the best players for every position. Despite that, the brightest prospects from the development squads will manage to find a way through.
John Terry managed to fight his way through in the 90s. More recently, Nathan Ake’s persistence has led to a place in the first-team squad, and Patrick Bamford and Lewis Baker seem set to join him. Patience, persistence and continued improvement will eventually pay off, even if it doesn’t work out quite as you expected.
After seven years of coaching, development and loan spells, Van Aanholt has not consistently reached the level needed to succeed at Chelsea. His current contract expires in 2015, and it would make sense for the club to cash in on him while they can this summer.
Feyenoord are reportedly interested, per Simon Johnson at the London Evening Standard, and a return to the league where he has had the most success in his career so far would be best for Van Aanholt in the long run. It may be disappointing to see seven years work come to such an end, but that's football.