Thomas Tuchel has admitted he did not want to sell Billy Gilmour on transfer deadline day, but his departure meant a last-minute Chelsea swoop for Denis Zakaria
The Blues reluctantly agreed to a £9m deal for Gilmour on Thursday from Brighton. But Tuchel has revealed he wanted the Scotland international to go on loan again. Gilmour had spent a period on loan at Norwich last season.
However, Gilmour point-blank refused another loan deal after struggling at Carrow Road. The 21-year-old made 24 appearances in the Championship for the Canaries, But his time there did not run as smoothly as was expected.
In fact Tuchel admitted the club “expected more” from Gilmour at Norwich. And when he returned in the summer he was facing an uphill battle to get into the first-team squad.
So much so that he did not make the touring squad to the USA. And was only handed a first-team squad number this week due to a lack of midfield options.
When Brighton’s interest became known, Gilmour jumped at the chance of a permanent move. Chelsea officials though initially blocked the deal before finally agreeing to let the former Rangers trainee move on.
Rangers will get a sizeable chunk of the transfer fee as part of the deal that took the 15-year-old Gilmour to Chelsea in May 2017.
Tuchel said: “We had high hopes and he played for us in the first half-a-year when I was at Chelsea. He played some important matches for us and looked for a new challenge that did not go so well for him with Norwich.
“We expected more, he expected more so it was like, without pointing a finger. But it is difficult also for him and for us to not succeed, to not play at Norwich, to be relegated and then suddenly be a central midfielder for Chelsea and competing for top four and for every title.
“There’s a huge step in between so we were looking. The ideal solution would have been maybe that he goes again on loan as the concurrence is huge for us in central midfield and we felt like he is not the age where he can live again with five or seven or eight matches during a whole season to fulfil his own potential so ideally it would have been another loan.
“Billy did not want to go on loan. It was a no-go for him so in the end we agreed to a sale.”
Chelsea made an instant signing to replace Gilmour with the arrival of Zakaria and Tuchel has admitted it was a “last-minute” deal.
“There’s always a risk in everything and in every last-minute deal,” said Tuchel when asked by the Evening Standard. “This was an option that came in very late.
“It was related maybe not to the numbers that we should have in midfield but actually have in midfield. We have Kova, who has had knee problems over the last weeks, who can hopefully make it without surgery and will be available right now.
“He was a little bit on the edge of surgery or no surgery during the last weeks with N’Golo Kante struggling. Suddenly, we thought, is this enough? Ruben Loftus-Cheek suddenly had a hamstring injury which could have cost us maybe some games but fortunately, he is available for tomorrow but this was maybe the kind of situation.
“This was maybe a last-minute or last days option. That was kind of on top of what was needed. He gives us in my opinion a lot of options because he has a lot of speed, height and physicality to bring to this group.”
Tuchel acquired the Swiss international from Juventus, but he did so knowing the 25-year-old can also play as a defender.
“He can play in a back three. He played for Monchengladbach in a back four as a central defender even, he can play in a back three as a defender. Also he can play both positions in midfield,” added Tuchel.
“And he can play at even wing-back because he is fast enough and has the volume so I think giving the risks that you mentioned with Saul, he has a bit more positions to play in and a bit more of a physical profile hopefully.”