Andreas Christensen has proven that clubs don’t always have to make a move in the transfer market to unearth a diamond. Sometimes the answer is looking at you straight in the face.
With question marks over his long-term future at Stamford Bridge upon his return from Borussia Monchengladbach, the Dane has silenced the doubters with his performances at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.
Antonio Rudiger’s arrival in west London looked as if it would see Christensen join the long list of youngsters heading out on loan again, yet he has played his way into Antonio Conte’s first-team plans.
While he may have Gary Cahill to thank for providing him with an opportunity in the team, the England international may well be worried about winning his place back in defence.
Given the captain is still suspended for two more games, the 21-year-old will be hoping to give his manager a major selection headache ahead of the home fixture against Arsenal in the middle of September.
Dubbed as a potential successor to John Terry in the past, the rise of Christensen is quite remarkable.
After arriving in the capital from Brondby in February 2012, the youngster was handed his debut in Jose Mourinho’s team as an 18-year-old in the League Cup win at Shrewsbury Town.
Christensen impressed and he was touted as a future star by Terry.
The former Chelsea captain, speaking to TV2 Sporten, said: “Believe me, I am sure that he will be a top footballer and one of the future men for Chelsea.
“I talk to him daily, train with him and try to give him as much advice as I can.
“I have always told him that he should chase me and knock me off the team. He should be hungry to take my place in the team.”
With opportunities limited in Mourinho’s side after that, Christensen was sent on a two-year loan to Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.
It turned out to be the making of the player.
After his league debut in the 4-0 defeat away at Borussia Dortmund, Christensen had to wait a month until he was back in Monchengladbach’s starting XI.
From then on he kept his place in the team and he made a big impression, not only in the Bundesliga, but also in the Champions League.
Christensen was so impressive in his first season that he pipped Granit Xhaka to the club’s Player of the Season award.
If his first season in the Bundesliga was good, his second would be even better.
The defender’s stats improved massively in his second year and he even outperformed Bayern Munich duo Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng in some areas of his game.
Christensen’s pass-completion rate in the Bundesliga last season was 91.5%, with Hummels only recording 88.8%. The defender also beat Hummels in terms of average duels won per match, while he made more interceptions than Boateng. Not bad for a 21-year-old on loan from Chelsea.
Following links with a move to Barcelona and Bayern, Monchengladbach tried their best to keep him in Germany for another season. However, Chelsea were having none of it.
With a number of players leaving on a permanent basis after spending time away from west London on loan, fans were fearful that Christensen wouldn’t add to his three appearances in a Blue shirt.
But on his return to Cobham in the summer, it was evident that the Danish international would be given his chance to impress Conte.
Sten Christensen, Andreas’ father, told Danish television that his son had made an instant impression on the Italian manager.
“They rate him highly,” said the former Brondby goalkeeper.
“They’re very happy to have him and they have high expectations from him.
“After the first training session after his return, Conte had gone to Michael Emenalo and told him ‘He’s even better live than on television!'”
Chelsea fans will undoubtedly agree with that now.
After getting the better of Harry Kane at Wembley on Sunday afternoon, Christensen will have Wayne Rooney to contend with at Stamford Bridge this weekend.
Given the mature way he dealt with one of the league’s best strikers, you wouldn’t bet against the defender doing the same against the Premier League’s second highest goalscorer.
Chelsea have got themselves a diamond in Christensen.
Will Christensen keep his place when Cahill returns from suspension? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.