At some point in the 2018-19 season, Chelsea had as many as 43 players away on loan across Europe, among them three Nigerians, Kenneth Omeruo, Ola Aina and Victor Moses.
While Aina and Moses had featured for the first team, a very high premium achievement for a Chelsea player, however it was a privilege Omeruo didn’t get in the seven seasons he spent as a Chelsea player.
“In my case, I’d say injury cost me a place in the Chelsea first team,” Omeruo told FL.
The Center Back joined Chelsea in 2012 as a 19 year-old; an academy product in Belgian although he had a stint of professional football in the NPFL with Sunshine Stars.
In his formative years, he started as a Right back, but the also showed confidence when deployed centrally in defender, a quality then Super Eagles Coach Stephen Keshi – a former CB himself – admired.
Despite his inexperience at senior level; he didn’t even play in the qualifiers, Omeruo caught the interests of the national team selectors, perhaps for the potential he showed at U17 and U20 levels.
He became the natural successor to long time captain and former Everton CB Joseph Yobo in the NT.
In 2013, for a rookie, he showed confidence and a high level of intelligence for his age, qualities that helped defeat a star-studded Ivory Coast team led by Yaya Toure and Chelsea Legend, Didier Drogba.
That year, the young CB got his first invitation to join the senior team’s pre-season under Manager Jose Mourinho.
However, a month to pre season and at the confederation Cup in 2013, he suffered a Shoulder injury and was dropped from the travelling squad.
Playing against Spain in the group stage match, the Defender hurt his shoulder in the opening 11 minutes of the encounter while challenging for the ball, he was subsequently replaced.
“After the Nations Cup and Confederations Cup, I was called up to play for the Chelsea first team,” the player recalls.
“But, I pulled my shoulder in the Confederations Cup and underwent a surgery that kept me out for four months. That actually hurt my chances at the moment.”
He would then proceed to join Championship side Middlesbrough in what would be his second loan spell in seven years.
Omeruo’s time away from Stamford Bridge also saw him play for ADO Den Haag before he joined Super Lig side Kasimpasa twice, Alanyaspor and CD Leganes in LaLiga.
He proceeded to request for a permanent move to the Spanish club after an impressive loan spell.
Leganes coughed up a hefty £4.6million, per Nizaar Kinsella [Goal] Chelsea initial valuation for the Nigerian was cut down from £7million.
Despite never playing for Chelsea in his seven years with the PL club, the 27 year-old says he has no regrets.
“I’m happy with the opportunity the club gave me to go out to other leagues and Countries to experience first team football.
But, he would be willing to return to England, although not to the Championship – the hardest league he played in.
The 2013 AFCON winner reckons he still has a future in England, but professed his desire to stay in LaLiga.
“The hardest League I played in at the time would be the England championship. I do think about coming back to England and the Premier League, but I really like La Liga a lot.
“We’ll see what football brings, hopefully we’ll come back to La Liga this season.”