England squad for Albania and San Marino World Cup qualifiers
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Chelsea are in a good position as the Premier League returns this weekend following the conclusion of the international break. Thomas Tuchel’s side are top of the table and poised to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League. But like every club, they still have problems to solve.
One of the stories of the international break came when Gareth Southgate called up Conor Gallagher to his squad for England’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Monday.
The decision and his subsequent debut capped a brilliant few months for the 21-year-old, who has been in fantastic form for Palace this season.
He has four goals and two assists in the Premier League so far under Patrick Vieira and is now beginning to turn heads.
Gallagher’s progress is interesting because, like many bright young talents, he is out on loan from Chelsea and his future will therefore be decided by his parent club, for whom he is yet to play for.
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It is still early days in the midfielder’s career, but Tuchel and the Blues’ hierarchy may well have already decided that they have seen enough to suggest he is good enough to compete for a place at Stamford Bridge.
The pathway from the Chelsea academy to the first team is notoriously difficult – just ask Billy Gilmour who has been farmed out to Norwich after a promising 2020/21 campaign at Chelsea.
But Mason Mount, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trevoh Chalobah are all getting regular minutes under Tuchel this season.
They should provide encouragement to Gallagher, who is no stranger to a loan, having played for Palace, West Brom, Swansea and Charlton in recent years.
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Chelsea’s love of a loan is famous and is undeniably sound practice from a business and development perspective.
Players like Gallagher are given the opportunity to spread their wings. If they perform well they can be integrated into the first team; if not they can be sold to fund other transfers.
Gallagher is good enough to make an impact at Chelsea and could be a most-effective way of freshening the squad up next summer. The club clearly knew this when they allowed him to join Palace on a season-long loan.
The Daily Mail reports that the club hierarchy refused to allow an option to buy clause to be inserted in any loan move he made in the summer.
Newcastle and Leeds were interested in signing Gallagher on loan with the option to buy next summer, but Chelsea refused and sent the player to Palace on their terms instead.
Gallagher signed a five-year contract with the club in September 2020, so Chelsea are in a very strong position. The player himself says he is not thinking that far into the future, but he must have one eye on the long-term.
“I am just thinking about this season with Crystal Palace, doing as best I can for them,” Gallagher said after making his England debut off the bench in the 10-0 win over San Marino.
“That’s most important for me now. If I continue to do well with them and carry on scoring a few goals there’s a chance to be in this England team.”
Happily for Chelsea, Gallagher can help them kill two birds with one stone by returning to the club at the end of the season.
While they loaned out Gallagher and Gilmour, Chelsea opted to sign Saul Niguez on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid in the summer.
The Spanish international has not impressed in the early months of the campaign, only appearing twice in the Premier League so far.
Saul looked well off the pace against Aston Villa in September and, right now, the £30million option to sign him permanently looks extremely unlikely.
Chelsea paid £4m to have Saul’s services for the 2021/22 season and that investment is not looking wise, with Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley playing in front of him.
Cadena SER have even reported that they only took the 26-year-old on deadline day as a favour to his representatives. If that is the case then the deal was a blunder by a club which is usually much more measured in the transfer market.
Luckily for Tuchel, Gallagher has provided him with a ready-made solution.
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