Oriol Romeu 21 Midfielder Chelsea
In an age when the Spanish default is to produce small technically gifted attacking players, Oriol Romeu’s emergence as a large defensive player was welcome. Before those possession percentage points can began to tick over someone has to be in charge of collection. Just the sort of chap that Spain, and Barcelona, would demand for battles ahead.
In early 2011, everything seemed on track for Oriol Romeu at Barca provided he remained patient. A ball winner with formidable body strength that had been schooled in the (cliché alert) tiki taka footballing philosophy is not a common commodity and first team chances were sure to arrive. Aware that patience is not something that sits well with hungry young players, Chelsea’s recruitment team maintained a close watch on the Ulldecona born midfielder.
By 2011, the Spanish Under 19 international was beginning to gain exposure at the Camp Nou, but not as frequently as he - or perhaps his agent - considered appropriate. And so the promise of regular first team football and a hefty pay rise in West London proved a decisive head turner. Amid comparisons to Arsenal’s ‘insolent’ 2003 raid on La Masia for a sprightly Cesc Fabregas, 19 year old Romeu made for England.
In the early months of the 2011-12 season, Romeu played well. He was equally adept intercepting passes and springing attacks from central midfield or stepping back to make last ditch tackles and headed clearances as a central defender. Starting regularly, Romeu embodied the evolution of Chelsea that Andre Villas-Boas was keen to promote.
However impressively Romeu was performing, Chelsea were not. After a limited opportunity to deliver his project, Villas-Boas was sacked. With an admiring coach departed, the opportunity to develop that Romeu might have hoped for rescinded quickly once caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo went back to basics. It was at this point that Jon Obi Mikel began to excel as Chelsea fired again. With central midfield slots annexed off by the usual suspects, Romeu could only observe from the substitutes bench as his new club embarked on a Champions League winning run with the old guard.
With the prospect of regular first team football melting away for the young Spaniard before the worst of the British winter had kicked in, Romeu could have been forgiven for thinking he should have stuck it out at Barcelona. Indeed there was much press speculation that Barca would exercise an option to buy back the midfielder this summer; an option which Chelsea were swift to deny existed.
So, where are we now? The chance to perform well and remind everyone what a good player he is at the Olympics ended before it began for Romeu as Spain imploded; crashing to three straight defeats in the tournament. At time of writing, Romeu remains exactly where he has been for most of the last twelve months, on the Chelsea substitute’s bench with the sum total of eight minutes first team football under his belt. But hope remains.
Essien and Merieles have departed, and Lampard is nearing the end of his career. With many fans keen to see the return of their robust young charge, a window of opportunity beckons and with a Spanish coach in charge surely the Stamford Bridge club will look to make best use of a player already on their books. Surely?
"Romeu looks like Noel Fielding if he got a part in American History X, but in spite of this he didn't seem to be a favourite of Roberto di Matteo. Despite the departures of Michael Essien & Raul Mereiles, Romeu has barely featured for Chelsea. There is a fine and tough midfield tackler in there somewhere, but he may need to leave Stamford Bridge to fulfil his potential." - Nick Miller (Football365)
D If it doesn’t happen soon, a move home will be necessary