Who does the Chelsea loan system work for? How Patrick Bamford left for better things
There have been times as a Chelsea player where Patrick Bamford found more pain than pleasure in football.
“I was more upset than people think,” said the forward after signing permanent contracts with Middlesbrough in January 2017, finally ending his time in Stamford Bridge’s bloated and relentless loan cycle.
After enjoying successful spells with MK Dons and Middlesbrough, a nightmarish hat-trick with Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Burnley left Bamford demoralized.
“[These final three loan moves] made me want to stop feeling what I have again, ”he said after arriving at Riverside. “I had to make a big decision… After six loans, my next move had to be permanent.”
For many teams, sending a player on loan six times would be a sign that things maybe aren’t meant to be. But for Chelsea it seems to be ingrained in club politics.
In the summer of 2016, when Bamford moved to Turf Moor, it was one of 23 deals made by the club that saw players shipped temporarily throughout the season. Since then, each campaign has seen at least 19 loan deals signed, more than those who left Arsenal and Tottenham combined in a single season in the same time frame (13, 2017/18).
Jamal Blackman and Lewis Baker both played in the same youth teams as Bamford and were also loaned out in the 2016/17 season. But while Bamford chose to break free, Baker and Blackman have continued to be loaned out every season since – bringing them to eight spells apiece.
Between them, the two have just three minutes of first-team football for Chelsea, thanks to Baker’s brief appearance against Derby County in the 2014 FA Cup third round. QPR right-back Todd Kane recently spoke about his experience in the loan system, detailing how standing deals often fall apart because the club is dragging its heels, saying it wished it had left sooner.
Bamford had to fight to leave Stamford Bridge and he did so without a second of first team football under his belt. So why do others seem so reluctant to push for this permanent move?
By signing for Boro, the striker admitted that Chelsea’s loan scheme has its perks and, although he does not go into specifics, probably the most important of them is a sense of financial security. A footballer’s career is, by comparison, extremely short, so it’s understandable that many are reluctant to sever ties with the Bridge.
But the lack of models is probably another factor. Baker and Blackman have rarely seen a player leave the loan cycle and seriously improve their career, so why would they take the risk?
You can’t help but look to Ethan Ampadu, Malang Sarr, Jamie Cumming, Connor Gallagher and Nathan Baxter now, the only players currently on loan who are under 23 years old.
However, in Patrick Bamford, these youngsters crucially have this model that the previous players did not have. An inspiration they can admire when sent off on loan again, whose pace of work and thirst for success after leaving Chelsea caught the attention of a legend like Marcelo Bielsa and earned himself a transfer at Leeds United, where his status as a club legend is now almost confirmed.
A player who already has 13 Premier League goals to his name this season, a top hat-trick and is even touted for a place in England’s Euro 2020 squad.
Bamford should be a beacon of hope and inspiration for every player stuck in the loan cycle. Leaving Chelsea might be the best thing you’ve ever done.
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