Tongues were wagging recently when Paulo Ferreira, the former Chelsea and Portugal right-back, was spotted at Watford’s training ground in London Colney.
Was the 37-year-old being summoned to the rapidly-changing facility off Bell Lane to talk to Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury about the possibility of him providing an experienced option for the out of sorts Allan Nyom? Or was the Uefa B qualified coach being lined up as Harry Kewell’s new assistant for Watford’s Under-21 side? Neither, it turns out.
He dropped in, for a spot of lunch, and to check on the progress of Nathan Ake. Chelsea have that many players out on loan (30 and counting) that they require two full-time coaches to oversee their best young players. His official title is ‘Assistant Loan Player Technical Coach’.
The reports on Ake from Quique Sanchez Flores would have been glowing. The head coach has taken a real shine to the dreadlocked left-back and loves his willingness to learn and his inclination to get better.
“The first thing was to come here and get minutes as I’ve had three years of not playing regularly,” Ake said after yesterday’s game. “That’s the main objective and to keep growing and keep developing. There is a lot more for me to develop. We’ll see what is going to happen next year.”
Whether Chelsea would be willing to sell the Holland Under-21 international is unclear. Watford’s chances may have decreased following the departure of Jose Mourinho, who showed no inclination for blooding any of the club’s young players. Yet it would be difficult to believe Watford, armed with another year of TV revenue, would not at least test Chelsea’s resolve to hang onto him with a sizeable bid to make the loan deal permanent, especially as he’s slotted in so neatly into what Sanchez Flores wants. It would be one less position the club would have to worry about finding an upgrade for in the summer.
We exclusively reported last month that Chelsea cannot recall Ake this season. The season-long loan deal could have ended prematurely had he not played a minimum number of games for the Hornets under the terms of the agreement, but he is now over that threshold, making the release clause redundant.
Ake, who turns 21 next month, has already been around long enough to not get involved in talk about the seemingly futile nature of being a young player at Chelsea. Their U21 side have reached the final of the FA Youth Cup for four straight seasons but only Ruben Loftus Cheek looks like making the leap to the first team.
“I don’t hear a lot,” Ake said. “I talk to Ruben about most things but I don’t really get involved in anything else. We know it’s difficult [to get into Chelsea’s first team]. There are not a lot of opportunities and you have to be ready for the opportunity and take it with two hands. Everyone has in their mind they want to play at Chelsea.”
Ake has made just one Premier League start in four years at Stamford Bridge and has come off the bench four times for a total of 30 minutes. He has, in stark contrast, played 16 times this season and should, all things being equal, make his first FA Cup start on Saturday, especially as he is ineligible for the league game against Chelsea next Wednesday.
- Additional reporting by David Anderson