Christian Atsu and 5 African Youngsters to Benefit from Loan Moves This Season
It was perhaps inevitable that Christian Atsu would be sent out on loan this season. Chelsea have stockpiled young (African) talent over the last few years and it’s clear that there isn’t space for all of them in Jose Mourinho’s plans.
Bearing this in mind, perhaps a loan move to Everton is the best possible outcome for the young Ghanaian winger.
Following his fine World Cup showings, it would have been a disaster had Atsu stagnated on the bench at Stamford Bridge. Similarly, the winger is surely primed for a grander stage than the Dutch Eredivisie and a return to Vitesse Arnhem would also have been a step in the wrong direction.
At Everton, however, Atsu will be exposed to the rigours of the Premier League and will surely receive game time amidst Everton’s limited squad and the demands of the Europa League.
He will also get the chance to work with Roberto Martinez, a manager who has a track record for improving and developing young talent.
This article profiles five other players who, like Atsu, would benefit from a loan move this season.
Chelsea have a fine crop of young African players.
Beyond Atsu, the likes of Gael Kakuta, Kurt Zouma and Mohamed Salah represent the future of the club, if not quite the present…yet.
Kenneth Omeruo might just be the most accomplished of the lot.
He doesn’t have the European experience of, say, Salah, but he is already an African champion and despite being only 20, already has 17 caps for Nigeria.
The youngster was also one of Africa’s stars at the 2014 World Cup. Despite the loss of his partner Godfrey Oboabona, the former ADO Den Haag man demonstrated the teamwork and composure that has set him apart among the continent’s pre-eminent defenders.
Unfortunately, his route to the first team appears blocked at Chelsea, but a return to Middlesbrough (where he spend the second half of the last campaign) should make for another valuable year in the versatile stopper’s career.
The sustained tutelage of former Real Madrid man Aitor Karanka and the working example of Jonathan Woodgate should help Omeruo refine his already exceptionally composed game.
In 28 league appearances for Milan, M’Baye Niang is yet to score.
He may have contributed two assists, but one significant contribution every 14 matches is hardly a good enough return.
He improved while on loan at Montpellier last season, scoring three in his first four matches, but then went 15 games with only one goal.
Maybe this is just the capriciousness of youth and we should be patient with Niang. Nonetheless, the striker has hardly improved at all since breaking into the sport with Caen back in March 2011.
Controversy and injuries have certainly played their part as well.
The positive news for Senegal, perhaps, is that with other forwards overtaking him, Niang appears further away from the senior France side than at various times in the past.
It may be that this season is the one when Niang breaks into the Milan team, possibly as an effective presence on the left.
It may be, however, that the West African needs a full campaign back in France to get back on track.
Back in November 2013, Germany manager Joachim Loew, as per ESPN, suggested that Serge Gnabry could make a late push for the Nationalmannschaft’s World Cup squad.
That particular possibility never came to pass and the tournament came and went with the Arsenal midfielder never getting a look in.
Indeed, considering the options available to Germany, particularly in the final third, it remains to be seen whether Gnabry will ever find a place for himself within the national setup.
Gnabry is, however, eligible for the Ivory Coast, due to his father and it’s not unthinkable that he may become a key figure in the post-Golden Generation Elephants side.
As reported by John Cross of the Daily Mirror, numerous Premier League clubs are interested in taking the offensive star on a season-long loan deal, with Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Newcastle United, Southampton and Aston Villa set to battle it out for his signature.
A year ago, Everton boss Roberto Martinez brought Gerard Deulofeu to Goodison Park on a season-long loan.
The deal was win-win for all parties involved.
Deulofeu received a year of experience in the EPL, Barcelona saw one of their talented young stars earn an invaluable year of tutelage, while Martinez and Everton received one of Europe’s bright stars for a pittance.
Could Jean-Marie Dongou be the next player to make the sojourn from Catalonia to Merseyside?
The “Next Eto’o” has indicated, early in his career, that he may be a player who can live up to his superstar moniker.
Dongou boasts versatility, enough to play through the centre or on the wings, as well as devastating pace and clinical finishing ability.
If Martinez is keen to bolster his attacking options, particularly ahead of a Europa League run, he could do a lot worse than pick up the phone and dial up Luis Enrique.
Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, Joel Obi made his long-awaited return to the Nigeria squad. He was named in the Super Eagles preliminary squad of 30, but, despite demonstrating his trademark poise and composure against Scotland at Craven Cottage, he was cut before the team travelled to Brazil.
It was another blow in a career that’s been riddled with them to date. Obi has struggled to find his best position at Internazionale and his time in Lombardy, and on loan at Parma, has been savaged by injuries.
He only made eight league appearances last term, a stat that tells its own story.
Admittedly, Inter are a club in transition and now might be a good time for Obi to assert himself at the Nerazzurri.
However, with Mateo Kovacic, Hernanes, Yann M’Vila, Ricky Alvarez, Fredy Guarin, Gary Medel, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and others ahead of him in the pecking order, there’s little guarantee that Obi will receive the playing time he needs for his career to kick on.