- Sep 25, 2012
The Matip situation would have been delayed because Chelsea sold him and had to buy him back. He had to spend an extra year or two developing to the stage that Chelsea would go back in with a (at the time) big money move as a starter. I agree we are probably looking/hoping for Grujic to develop enough to be a good, solid, back-up. That way we only need to wait maybe 1 to 3 seasons after this one (covered within his current deal) depending on his development (24/25 years old maybe) and Henderson's mid term future (32/33 years old?). And we would still own him unlike Chelsea having to buy Matip back.This is the core long-term:
-------- Fabinho (25) -------
Ox (25) ---------- Keita (23)
Backed up by:
----- Henderson (28) -------
Wijnaldum (27) ----- Lallana (30)
+ Milner (32) + Grujic (22)
In terms of age profile I'd say that going forwards the way to go is go continue signing players in the 21-23 range (like Keita this summer) to set up continuity and gradually replace Milner and Lallana (and eventually Henderson) as and when they need to be phased out.
By the way, Grujic is still only 22, and was extended for another 5 years recently. That may have been only to protect his value, but it wouldn't surprise me if the plan is for him to eventually take over from Henderson as Fabinho's backup in the squad.
An interesting comparison with Grujic is Nemanja Matic, who at the same age that Grujic is now (22) was on loan from Chelsea to Vitesse, and would later spend 3 seasons at Benfica before being brought back to Chelsea in 2014. Matip only became a part of the first team at age 26-27. Obviously it would be a really long time until Grujic is 26-27 so you'd certainly hope Grujic would break through faster than that, but it's worth putting into perspective how young Grujic relative to another player similar in style to him. Grujic does have the physical skills and athleticism, the only thing really lacking is discipline and tactical understanding, but that may be something that develops with time.