Mauricio Pochettino stood in the way of Chelsea loaning out Lesley Ugochukwu this summer just weeks after describing him as someone who would be sent elsewhere upon arrival.
That’s according to Football Insider, which claims Ugochukwu quickly won Pochettino over after his arrival from Rennes. Subsequently, any plans to loan the midfielder out in order to continue his development were shelved.
When Chelsea were about to sign Ugochukwu towards the end of July, Pochettino seemingly distanced himself from the deal by declaring: “We need experience in midfield. I have the information you have. My information is a player that is from France that maybe they sign with the idea to send on loan. The information was already in your laptop.”
Obviously, by the time the transfer window closed, Ugochukwu was still at Pochettino’s disposal. In fact, he has been sent on as a substitute twice in the Premier League so far and got a full 90 minutes under his belt in a Carabao Cup win over AFC Wimbledon.
According to Football Insider, Pochettino has been impressed by the 19-year-old so far, which prompted him to prevent Chelsea loaning him out this summer.
There is still a chance Ugochukwu could leave on loan in January, the report admits, depending on how his situation has unfolded by then. But for now, he has the opportunity to fight for his place in Pochettino’s lineups.
Chelsea oversaw a major rebuild of their midfield this summer after the exits of N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, among others. Perhaps all that change opened up a chance for Ugochukwu to carve out a role for himself.
The Frenchman is under contract in west London until 2030, with the option of an additional year.
And perhaps Pochettino’s comments in July were just his way of avoiding speaking about a player before he officially joined the club. Indeed, Ugochukwu’s senior debut for Rennes was against Pochettino’s PSG and the Argentine tactician has remembered him from their time in Ligue 1.
Now, they are part of the same Chelsea project in the Premier League.
Ugochukwu explains Chelsea choice
During the current international break, Ugochukwu has revealed via Chelsea’s official website why he made the move.
He said: “I was attracted by what they wanted to do and what they saw in me. They say I can become a great midfielder, if I put in the work and everything goes well. It’s up to me to prove that I can have my place in the long term.
“I wanted to take this step. When a club of this stature comes in for you, it’s very difficult to refuse.”
As for whether he will get enough gametime, he added: “In any team, you are not sure you will play.
“When I arrived at Chelsea, I knew where I was going. It’s up to you to prove yourself, to show that you deserve your place. Personally, I have never been afraid of competition.
“I have been learning with very good players like Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia, who is the same age as me. It’s up to me to go and get the most minutes.
“What I am learning at Chelsea, on a daily basis and during games, will allow me to strengthen myself and mature in my game. When you are young, you have to play, of course, but I feel ready to fight for earn my place.
“I have great confidence in myself, in my qualities, in what I can do. I know that if I do things correctly, everything will go as planned. I have the trust of the club, of the staff, that’s what pushed me to say to myself: Go for it! If they came for you, it’s because you have the qualities.”