Der offizielle Spielball der UEFA Europa League von molten. Fussball Europa League, Viertelfinale Rueckspiel: Atalanta Bergamo - RB Leipzig 0:2. 14. April 2022: Bergamo Italien. Atalanta Bergamo - RB Leipzig 0:2 *** The official match ball of the UEFA Europa League by molten Football Europa League, quarterfinal second leg Atalanta Bergamo RB Leipzig 0 2 14 April 2022 Bergamo Italy Atalanta Bergamo RB Leipzig 0 2

I stopped playing Football Manager about a decade ago. There, I’ve said it. I’ll probably get lynched by half of you now, but I can’t change the facts. From the days of a thumping Ajax treble in my debut season 23 years ago – it genuinely was my first ever season playing the game at all – I have gone through the rites of passage like all good people should. Championship Manager 01/02 for the stupidly generous stats, the split to become Football Manager: I’ve been there for the key moments.

A soured Football Manager love affair

Like many, however, I just ran out of time. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself, anyway. Lately I’ve been starting to realise (yes, 10-year reactions do happen) there is something else that turned me off. As a kid I loved the fantasy of building all the best players in the world into one team. Who wouldn’t?

Another major factor was hoarding the best young talent and watching it grow. Initially that was great. Watching Tom Youngs, Erik Nevland and Peter Prospar become veterans was gratifying. It felt like some kind of justification for my artificially built footballing knowledge.

Eventually though, it became stale. It was the same process of signing countless wonderkids, watching them flourish, and repeat. Only the names had changed. Instead of a heart-shredding, emotional tornado of a parting of passionate lovers, my separation from Football Manager was more of a reluctant resignation that the spark had long gone out.

Pulisic feeds Chelsea’s loan addiction (probably)

Someone is taking this way too seriously. I don’t even mean some spotty 13-year-old kid on three-day binges; I mean real life. Step forward, Chelsea. Their abuse of the loan system is quite staggering, if not entirely new. There are countless examples we could use, but for immediacy’s sake let’s take the most recent.

Their latest signing Christian Pulisic is a phenomenally talented young man. Like a growing number of Americans, he realised that MLS is utter shite for developing intelligent players as opposed to bloody ‘athletes’. He had the balls to uproot himself from his comfort zone as a teenager and threw himself into a foreign culture at Borussia Dortmund to better himself. With the best academies on the planet chasing him, Dortmund won out and he has flourished.

The sheer gallons of irony swirling around this transfer are overwhelming. Chelsea’s high-profile misses in the loan market are easy targets in hindsight. Kevin de Bruyne is someone you have *probably* heard of, for example. I admit I didn’t spot how brilliant he was when he arrived at Chelsea, but then, I wasn’t a coach working with him every day.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Ship him out to Wolfsburg on loan, and bring in someone else more immediately useful. Who cares if he stays or goes? Thankfully for him, he made the right choice to join the Bundesliga, just like so many of England’s finest talents are now also doing. Just as ₤60-odd million (no I cannot be fucked to check the exact figure) drifts out the Stamford Bridge doors, it looks almost certain that Callum Hudson-Odoi will follow in exchange for around half that sum.

Willian and Pedro are dwindling and not exactly young wingers, so reinforcing that general area of the squad makes some superficial sense. YOU’VE ALREADY GOT A BLOODY YOUNG WINGER ON YOUR BOOKS!! Christ, what is wrong with them? CHO20 (he’s got to have a moronic alphanumerical brand, right?) is ideally placed to gain experience and be brought into the fold. Now he’s got yet another expensive import in the way.

To be fair to him, he will most likely be better off at Bayern Munich. Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will soon both be gone, leaving the Chelsea lad an opportunity to push for a place. He certainly wouldn’t have got it at Stamford Bridge.

I can imagine Chelsea as a lonely, middle-aged spinster who is an amazing chef but spends her time buying ready meals instead. She probably curls up in front of the sofa watching Bridget Shades of Prejudice on her tablet instead of heading down the road to watch King Lear at the theatre. Her iPhone plays whatever Spotify tells her to while her vintage vinyl collection gathers dust in the corner.

Lucas Piazon: a cautionary tale

I don’t think Chelsea even know how many players they have on their books farmed out to loan clubs. Whatever the exact figure, it is too high. Remember Lucas Piazon? He signed SEVEN years ago and yet spent five and a half years on loan. Here’s the best part I bet you hadn’t even realised: he’s still at Chelsea. Not on loan, actually at Chelsea. The poor lad doesn’t even have a squad number.

As a 17-year-old, he was an exciting prospect. Now, his own manager probably doesn’t know his name. Chelsea are far from the only club to abuse the loan system, but they are especially prolific at it.

Pulisic deserves every chance to prove himself, given his refreshing outlook on development. Taking the plunge at such a young age in the interests of improving himself and not accepting a comfortable but unchallenging career in the MLS closed system is laudable.

Before the poor lad had even arrived, Maurizio Sarri admitted he had no idea Pulisic had actually signed. Call me grumpy, but I’m not hopeful. Perhaps he can pass fellow countryman Matt Miazga in the corridors this summer to get a lowdown on his future.