Watford are resigned to losing Nathan Ake back to Chelsea in the summer, despite reports in the national media linking him with a cut-price permanent switch to Vicarage Road.
Ake has played 23 times for the Hornets since joining the club on a season-long loan, establishing himself as the first-choice left-back and scoring his first senior goal, against Liverpool. Quique Sanchez Flores is a huge fan of the 21-year-old, taking a real shine to his willingness to learn and his humble attitude. The club would dearly love to sign Ake on permanent basis, but he will definitely return to the Blues at the end of his loan spell and the chances of him being sold this summer, particularly for a reported fee of £3m, are virtually non-existent.
As a yardstick of what left-backs are worth on the open market, Jose Holebas cost Watford £1.8m and he is ten years older than Ake. Chelsea signed Thorgan Hazard for £375,00 in 2012 and sold him on for Borussia Monchengladbach for £6m, so they are not in the habit of selling their young assets on the cheap.
Watford, we understand, feel their best hope is landing Ake on another loan next season, something that will hinge on where the Holland Under-21 international features in the plans of Chelsea’s new manager. Roman Abramovich is known to be insistent that Chelsea’s next manager bloods a great proportion of the youngsters from the club’s all-conquering youth team – they won the FA Youth Cup in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 – and you only had to see his delight at Ruben Loftus-Cheek scoring against Scunthorpe in the FA Cup to see his passion for the development of his young players.
Ake is big mates with Loftus-Cheek and they could well feature in Chelsea’s first XI next season, especially with Branislav Ivanovic likely to be moved on and regular left-back Cesar Azpelicueta set to be moved to the right. Baba Rahman, the Ghanaian left-back, cost Chelsea £21m but there are reports he may be shipped back to Ausburg this summer.
Represented by Key Sport Management, Ake was handed a new five-year deal by Chelsea last summer and then farmed out for Premier League experience to Watford, who beat Aston Villa and Genoa to his services. Chelsea could have recalled him had he not played a certain number of games at Vicarage Road but the left-back passed that threshold at the end of December and he will remain at Watford until the end of the season. In his role as one of two loan player managers, Paulo Ferreira, the former Portugal and Chelsea right-back, has been to Watford’s training ground at least once to discuss Ake’s progress.
The club’s forward-thinking recruitment team will already have drawn up a shortlist of replacements for Ake, but the burning issue for them is what to do with Jose Holebas. He, along with Juan Carlos Paredes, has been completely left out of the matchday squad for the last two matches and the club’s executives know they have a tough task in convincing the sometimes high-maintenance Greece international that he has a future at the club after a season where he has not known whether he has been coming or going since December.