Should Chelsea welcome back Tiemoue Bakayoko?
Background photo: Vespa, CC-BY-SA 3.0
Tiemoue Bakayoko started his time at AC Milan with a sour taste in the mouth. He’s ending it no better. Sandwiched between, the Frenchman took to the boisterous City of Milan. He made a good impression, too. Although far from indelible. Now, Chelsea has a decision to make regarding Bakayoko. Sell him? Loan him back? Or allow him to return to fulfil his contract in West London?
Like Bernardo Silva, Anthony Martial, Fabinho and Benjamin Mendy, Bakayoko rode into the limelight on the back of Leonardo Jardim’s exquisite Monaco side of 2016/17. Unsurprisingly, none of the aforementioned stars still don for the Monegasques.
For Bakayoko, his fine performance made him irresistible to Chelsea. The Blues soon realized they shouldn't have hurriedly credited the Principality bank, however. The midfielder blew hot and cold in a lukewarm debut campaign.
Some Chelsea fans believe Bakayoko is among the most overrated players in his position. The Chelsea hierarchy must’ve been thinking along that perspective when slapping a £30-million buyout clause on the 24-year-old. AC Milan happily grabbed the short-term option.
Purists who nailed Bakayoko to the cross in England trailed him to Italy. Away from the high-octane Premier League, would Bakayoko morph miraculously? After the first few months, the pessimists would’ve sighed and concluded - “total flop!”
But Bakayoko indeed turned the corner. His impressive performances as an impact sub tugged on Gennaro Gattuso’s heart, and the World Cup winner was obliged to hand more minutes to the Chelsea loanee. Coming into his own in Milan’s midfield, Bakayoko’s fine outing in Rossoneri oozed. It culminated in a well-taken goal in the Milan-derby.
Bakayoko went on to remain a mainstay in the Milan lineup until the incident against Bologna on matchday 35.
It all stemmed from what happened on the training pitch. Bakayoko must’ve gotten complacent, given his rising importance in Gattuso’s team roster. Afforded 23 Serie A starts, plus 10 more in other competitions, Bakayoko’s ego had begun to soar dangerously.
Prior to the match against Bologna at San Siro, Bakayoko was accused by Italian media of being late to training. The accusations appeared true when his name went missing from the announcer’s paper. The clear message sent anger into the head of the Paris-born midfielder; who, by the way, has been trusted by his manager in the last seven league games.
Bakayoko's frustration showed when he apparently feigned sluggishness when asked to come off the bench to replace an injured teammate. There was a heated exchange between him and Gattuso, which elapsed with the player saying ''f**k off'' to his gaffer.
Will Milan be willing to negotiate another loan deal or pay £30 million for a player with that level of effrontery?
"I've already explained what happened with Bakayoko... Enough... The priority is AC Milan and the 50.000 fans that showed up today... The only thing I fear is death. That's it".
In England, Chelsea look to be wrapping up the campaign in the same fashion they opened it. Maurizio Sarri’s side is showing character. They’ve mathematically finished in the Premier League's top-four, and could still win the Europa League.
Less positive news is that Chelsea lost its appeal against a two-window transfer ban. Reports say the Blues have launched another appeal against FIFA; this time to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). Sarri claims his team will be unable to compete against sides such as Manchester City and Liverpool next season if the decision is upheld.
In light of the foregoing, Chelsea must recall Bakayoko.
Remember, Mateo Kovacic is due to return to Real Madrid in June. That leaves a vacuum in Chelsea’s midfield. Bakayoko has shown strength, talent and fighting spirit while at Milan. The Bologna incident can be blamed on youthful exuberance. A moment of weakness, perhaps.
If Sarri continues to ostracize Bakayoko like he did Cesc Fabregas and Danny Drinkwater, he could find himself staring at a crater in his midfield before the coming season gets heated.
Tiemoue Bakayoko has done enough to be treated with respect when the 2019/20 campaign kicks off.