Sometimes people, places and timing are not the right fit – add to this conundrum a football club and you may find the example of Michy Batshuayi and Chelsea FC.
The Belgian striker arrived in West London in 2016 after two years at Marseille. The then 22-year-old had been a regular scorer in his homeland with 2015-16 becoming his breakout season in senior football as he netted 23 goals for Marseille. Whilst many question the competitiveness of Ligue 1, you always tend to find a clutch of on-form strikers and 2015-16 was no different. Alongside Batshuayi was Alexandre Lacazette, Wissam Ben Yedder as well as PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani at the top of the scoring charts. (Interestingly of that list only Cavani remains in France which goes some way to showing Ligue 1 is often a breeding ground for aspiring attackers or in the age of oil money to become a trophy-piece in Paris).
Batshuayi was Antonio Conte’s first signing at Chelsea at £33 million – not even a blot on the copy book of the astronomical fees being muted today, but a substantial fee for a player who had only really had one prolific season in Europe’s top five leagues.
You’d be forgiven for thinking life was rosy for the man who’d won the Premier League in his debut season by scoring the Championship winning goal, but he was a striker who only started one game the whole domestic campaign. The former Standard Liege forward joined up with a roster that included Diego Costa and Eden Hazard at Stamford Bridge and was often sidelined by the dynamic duo who’d notch 36 Premier League goals between them. There were even mumblings of a dispute between the manager and the owner but the club went into the new season with renewed optimism – despite missing the chance to do the double, losing 2-1 to Arsenal in the FA Cup final.
An opening day loss to Burnley has been the catalyst for an inconsistent season for the defending champions. Despite scoring at the Vicente Calderon in a 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid, Batshuayi was again hamstrung by the big money arrival of Alvaro Morata. Batshuayi’s career slowly turned from the main-man to the go-to-guy. Maybe that’s why he is nicknamed Bats-Man!
The Premier League transfer merry-go-round went into overdrive at the end of the January 2018 window, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s move to Arsenal and the subsequent signing of Olivier Giroud by Chelsea allowing Michy Batshuayi to move to Borussia Dortmund, despite his goal ratio of a strike every 92.76 minutes since the beginning of the ‘16-17 season could only be bettered by Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero and he has continued in Germany.
The 24-year-old has flourished in Deutschland’s top flight scoring seven goals in seven games including one on his debut, a last-minute winner on his first Europa League start and to an audacious flick in the 1-0 win over Hanover in his last game.
Batshuayi has started all but one of his seven Bundesliga matches, quickly becoming an integral piece in the Dortmund jigsaw. His instant impact has been helped by the return to fitness of Marco Reus who is looking to regain his form of the Jurgen Klopp years once more.
A damning stat emerged that before Morata scored against Leicester City in the FA Cup last weekend, Batshuayi had found the net six times since the Spaniard’s last Chelsea goal against West Brom back in December 2017.
The loan agreement between Chelsea and Dortmund doesn’t include an option to buy – a complete error of judgement on the German sides part you’d think, but according to Chief Executive Hans-Joachim Watzke this was completely batted away by Roman Abramovich in their discussions.
Vice-captain Marco Reus has been impressed with the strikers form saying;
I would be very happy if Michy stays. He showed how important he can be for us. I hope we can finish the season in a Champions League place. Then we have to keep up the good ground
It’s important to feel loved and appreciated wherever you are, and as a striker this is particularly pertinent. The fact Batshuayi is amongst the goals right now also adds to a players’ desire to stay put and to remain where the grass is green. But It may prove that Abramovich’s bullishness to leave out an option to buy clause will mean he returns to London after all.