Chelsea 3-1 Southampton: Picture highlights
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Chelsea signed Saul Niguez from Atletico Madrid on an initial loan deal this summer as Thomas Tuchel looked to bolster his ranks as they go in search of a first Premier League title for five years. The west Londoners have the option to make the deal permanent next summer if the Chelsea boss likes what he sees from the 26-year-old.
Saul had indicated part of the reason for his move was so he could play further forward instead of occupying a position protecting the backline.
But he made his Blues debut alongside Mateo Kovacic against Aston Villa last month in a defensive midfield role.
The Spain international struggled with the intensity of Premier League football during his maiden outing and was embarrassingly hauled off at the break.
He made his second Chelsea appearance 11 days later in the Carabao Cup – with Villa once again providing the opposition – but he has failed to play in any other games for the club.
It’s still early days for Saul but something appears to be amiss and there are now doubts over whether the player will be able to adapt to life in England.
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Tuchel may therefore look to return the former Real Madrid youngster to Atletico next summer instead of shelling out big bucks to sign him permanently.
If Chelsea do offload Saul at the end of his loan deal, they can already look forward to welcoming a player who could in fact be his ideal replacement. That player is Conor Gallagher.
Gallagher came through the Chelsea academy before enjoying loan spells with Charlton Athletic, Swansea and West Bromwich Albion.
The 21-year-old was shipped out to Crystal Palace at the start of this campaign to illustrate his Premier League credentials once again – and he has been impressing across the capital.
Gallagher hit a brace on his second Premier League appearance for the Eagles in their 2-2 draw with West Ham in August, before turning provider for Odsonne Edouard in last month’s 3-0 victory over Tottenham.
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And now Palace boss Patrick Vieira has backed the player to reach the very top of the game.
“I strongly believe he has what it takes [to reach the top level],” Vieira said.
“He still has parts of his game that he needs to improve but, when we’re doing feedback on his game, the way he takes in the information and the way he translates it after on the field shows me he’s somebody that wants to improve.
“Taking information in with detail allows him to be a more complete player and for that, he has a big chance at getting to the highest level.
“He’s a joy to work with. His work ethic is fantastic, always positive. The way he is on the field – he is the same off it.
“He’s fantastic as a person and it’s really good to have him at the club.”
The Chelsea academy has produced a plethora of first-team stars over the years. And Gallagher may become the next graduate to light up Stamford Bridge in the coming years.
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