A topic that has had no lack of interest in recent times, the ‘partnership’ between Chelsea and Dutch club Vitesse is an intriguing issue.

  • By Priya Ramesh
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piazon efThe London club have been loaning some of their younger players to the Gelderland-based club since 2010, but the loans only garnered interest after a grand total of SIX Chelsea players were sent on loan at the beginning of this season and among them, an exciting prospect, Lucas Piazon.

Looking back at the 3-4 years of cooperation between the clubs, it has produced favourable results for both sides so far. Vitesse have gained from the talent of Patrick van Aanholt and Tomas Kalas and of course, more recently, their showstopper, the aforementioned Lucas Piazon.  From escaping the relegation play-offs by the skin of their teeth in 2010-11 to placing 7th in 2011-12 season to 4th place last season and finally tied on top of the league with 3-time defending champions Ajax before the winter break, there is only one way Vitesse have gone since the takeover by Georgian Merab Jordania (now speculated to be a smokescreen for Russian businessman and long-time friend of Abramovich, Aleksandr Chigirinsky) and the initiation of the alliance with Chelsea: up.

Chelsea, on the other hand, get first refusal on all of Vitesse’s players – which they did exercise last summer, acquiring the services of Marco van Ginkel. In addition to that, player such as Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt, Lucas Piazon and more recently, Christian Atsu seem to have benefited immensely from their time at Vitesse. Kalas has returned to Chelsea this year  and the other three remain on loan, though it is likely Piazon and van Aanholt at least will return to the Bridge after this season. When they return, they return as much more well-rounded, technically capable players – a result of being nurtured in a league that is widely reputed for placing utmost importance on technical ability and skill. Ultimately, that is what Dutch football is and has been for the last 40 years or so. The football and the very mindset of the country emphasizes the skill and ability of a player with the ball and his intelligence off it over the likes of courage or strength that some other leagues tend to stress on. This is why many young players choose to nurture themselves at a Dutch club before moving on and why most of the Eredivisie’s exports fit in to any league with little fuss. Moreover, Chelsea’s chief scout and the man who brought Ronaldo to PSV – Piet de Visser, as well as Roman’s right-hand-lady Marina Granovskaia  monitor the Chelsea loanees very closely at Arnhem.

Everything looks good so far, but there are problems involved in this alliance.

Though Vitesse are also ‘loaning in’ many Chelsea supporters and are growing as a club with an international reach, some of their local fans are not as happy. The Dutch are proud people and there is little they enjoy than seeing a young Dutch kid play for the club whose youth system he joined when he was 10. The huge influx of youngsters from Chelsea means that the Vitesse academy graduates’ chances of making it to the first team is smaller. The last few seasons have seen a few Georgian players come in (as a result of Jordania’s involvement), in addition to the Chelsea loanees. The close relations between the two clubs may possibly culminate in a situation whereby Vitesse are pressurized to play the Chelsea boys instead of promoting their youth. This could end up being quite detrimental for the club who will have potentially lost their identity as a club and be only known (as they already are, by some) as ‘Chelsea B’ (though some Vitesse ultras have embraced this identity).

If there should ever arise a (highly unlikely) situation whereby Chelsea should cut off their ties to Vitesse and stop loaning in players, then Vitesse will have to thrust their youngsters right away into the spotlight, as opposed to a relatively calmer transition or splash the cash in the market.

Moreover, there is always the quality of loanees being sent to Vitesse. For example, the first ‘batch’ of loanees from Chelsea included Matic (of Benfica now), Slobodan Rajkovic and Matej Delac (who did not get a single appearance at the Dutch club). Rajkovic had quite a good spell while Matic was decent. Compare that to the present batch, 6 players out of which 3 are mainstays in the first XI and two out of those three have been arguably Vitesse’s best players this season. The dependence on the Chelsea loanees is increasing. In the likely scenario that Piazon and van Aanholt (atleast) do not return to the GeloDrome next season, and the new ‘batch’ of loanees is not as good as the previous one, Vitesse might face problems.

Vitesse, as a club, have to curb the number coming in, for their own good. In this case where 6 players have been sent to Arnhem from London, only the three named before are reaping the benefits. The other three, namely, Kakuta, Hutchinson and Cuevas have been restricted to a few substitute appearances here and there, whereas Cuevas has not even made the matchday squad in many instances. In such a scenario, neither club is acquiring a large benefit, as well as the player himself left pondering over his predicament.

Ultimately, first and foremost, the loophole in the loaning rules of the Eredivisie must be checked and altered by relevant authorities and the clubs have to maintain their own interests and priorities on par with those of their ‘parent’ club.

Priya Ramesh (5 Posts)

Freelance Dutch football writer, suffering student, unique mixture of calcium, water, collagen and iron.