Chelsea’s youth system, constantly overflowing with fringe talents, has provided another valuable asset to a fellow Premier League club. Promising youngster Nathaniel Chalobah, a 22-year-old who’s been with the Chelsea academy since the ripe age of 10, was sent to Watford on Friday on a permanent deal for £5.5 million.
Signing Chalobah for £5.5m is a bargain
This is, quite frankly, an absolute steal of a deal for Watford. Chalobah, a defensive midfielder who has earned over 90 caps for the English youth national teams, was the rare academy product who seemed destined to see consistent, first-team football at Stamford Bridge. He had been shipped off on loans to Burnley, Reading, and Napoli over the past few seasons.
Nevertheless, Chelsea turned down a barrage of loan offers from the likes of Leicester and Sevilla in-advance for the 2016-17 season in the hopes of keeping Chalobah in London. He stayed, and he was impressive in the limited Premier League minutes he played, appearing in ten league games along with a handful of solid cup performances. This seemed like a potential breakout season for the young midfielder, but it appears that the desire for first-team minutes and the arrival of Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko made Chalobah push for a move away from his home of 12 years this offseason.
He has a new home now, and the Hornets couldn’t be more thrilled. To add a talent of Chalobah’s caliber for less than £6 million is a massive bargain in today’s market, and a rather puzzling deal from Chelsea’s end. Chalobah is talented enough to start for Watford immediately—in fact, he’s already familiar with the club from his loan there in 2012, when he made 38 appearances and scored five goals, helping fuel the Hornets’ ill-fated promotion push. Similar returns at Vicarage Road this season would have the club absolutely ecstatic.
Chelsea fans will hope that the deal includes a buy-back clause
Still, it’s not doom-and-gloom for Chelsea by any stretch of the imagination. Though the transfer left many pundits scratching their heads at what the Blues’ long-term plan for Chalobah could have been, they’ve still made a healthy profit off the youngster—which, to a cynical eye, is really all one can hope for from a top-tier club’s academy players—and the deal reportedly includes a buy-back clause that would allow Chelsea to snatch up the English midfielder in a few seasons if they so desire. Plus, with Bakayoko coming in, the Blues have another proven option at defensive midfield who is the exact same age as Chalobah, making the latter surplus to requirements, at least in the short term.
However, it’s the remarkably low transfer fee that makes Watford the winners of this deal, as the Hertfordshire club have continued a quietly impressive summer transfer window. In advance of a pivotal season for the club as they look to remain afloat in the top tier of English football, they’ve also managed to pull in promising 22-year-old midfielder Will Hughes from Derby, right-back Kiko from Alaves, and now perhaps their crown jewel in Chalobah. Time will tell whether these reinforcements will be enough to help the Hornets stay above the dreaded relegation line in 2018.