The Sliding Doors second of Jérémie Boga’s Chelsea career came on the opening day of this 2017/18 season.
Having spent the past two campaigns on loan in Rennes and Granada, the 20-year-old was given a place in Antonio Conte’s first-team squad for pre-season.
Boga impressed. His quick-feet and dribbling ability as problematic for seasoned defenders as people who’d been bamboozled by the winger in academy soccer.
His effect, coupled with injuries to Eden Hazard and Pedro, supposed Conte chose to Begin the child against Burnley for Chelsea’s Premier League opener. It was his moment to impress, an chance to make his mark. He lasted only 18 minutes.
It was through no fault of his own, it needs to be said.
Boga was packed off to Birmingham City on loan for the remainder of the 2017/18 year less than three weeks afterwards.
Chelsea received a charge of only #3.5m but they did include a buyback clause in the offer. And after a series of impressive performances in Serie A this year, talk has begun as to whether the Blues should consider activating that in January — if they have the ability to go into the transfer market, naturally.
Boga has hinted he’d be open to a return to Stamford Bridge.
“I always keep this in mind.
Maybe Boga’s interest in returning to Stamford Bridge is fuelled by the number of his former academy team-mates currently in the Chelsea side. He grew up playing alongside Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori and was a part of childhood teams that also contained Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christensen.
That’s not an easy question to answer, but there’s not any doubt this season he’s become a much more rounded attacker.
And it is something the 22-year-old has confessed.
“Mentally, also, I’ve matured.
“Before I dribbled with a finish. It polluted my match. I have more efficacy and I expect it will continue like this. I must do even better — more aids, more goals. I must attempt to become even more effective.”
Boga’s ability to evade challenges and jump beyond defenders is unrivalled in Serie A. And that’s been the case since he joined Sassuolo.
Last term he was finishing 5.13 dribbles per 90, the most of any Serie A participant. This year it has dropped to 4.71 a 90 but he stays out in front. However, since Boga has surrendered, dribbling for dribbling’s sake is somewhat moot. There must be a reason for this, an end product to the chaos generates.
That’s what Boga has included this term. His goals each 90 has climbed from 0.19 to 0.43 and his assists per 90 has increased from 0.06 to 0.11. He’s also taking more touches in the resistance box (5.35 compared to 4.32) and is finishing more moves (28.32 compared to 25.03).
Perhaps most of all, of the 24 Serie A goals Sassuolo have scored this term, Boga has been engaged in a quarter of these (four goals and two assists).
He’s a player who will make the incredibly tough look unerringly straightforward. A player who will unlock the most stubborn of defences. A player who will embarrass one of the best goalkeepers to have played the sport.
These minutes of pure creativity were always fleeting, though. Boga has been granted perfect guidance but, more importantly, the platform to execute. It’s repaid.
It is why Chelsea should leave him Sassuolo, at least for now.
First-team football would be restricted, Boga’s development stunted once again.
But next summer — if Willian and Pedro depart at the end of the contracts and the Sassuolo No.7 continues to impress — a bargain may make sense, particularly if the buyback fee is a little one.
And when Boga did return, his second introduction is very likely to be a lot more impactful than his original.