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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 19 October, 2018

The baffling case of Marco van Ginkel: the player Chelsea don't want but don't want to lose

The Dutch midfielder has signed another contract extension but will spend the 2017/2018 season on a fifth loan in four years.

Image: Nigel French

IN DECEMBER 2016, an announcement was made by Chelsea.

The club’s Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel had signed a contract extension with the Premier League side until 2019.

It was curious for a number of reasons.

Later in the same day, he joined PSV Eindhoven on loan until the end of the season. A familiar story for the former Vitesse player.

He arrived at Stamford Bridge as a highly-regarded talent in 2013 but he sustained a cruciate ligament injury early in the season which put paid to him having any impact in his debut campaign.

At the beginning of the 2014/2015 season, van Ginkel was sent to AC Milan on a season-long loan but his time at the San Siro was troublesome. There was an initial ankle injury and a subsequent lack of playing time before more fitness issues after Christmas. He finished the season strongly – scoring in a win over Roma – before returning to Chelsea, who had just been crowned top-flight champions under Jose Mourinho.

But, inevitably, van Ginkel’s future looked far from secure. When Chelsea needed a new back-up goalkeeper, they used the Dutchman as a bargaining chip during negotiations to sign Stoke’s Asmir Begovic. When that deal went through, van Ginkel found himself in the middle of another season-long loan.

Stoke City v Crystal Palace - Barclays Premier League - Britannia Stadium Source: Mike Egerton

The Stoke arrangement began brightly and van Ginkel was first-choice at the start of the campaign. But, that didn’t last long. Pretty quickly, he was a regular substitute and had to make do with cameo appearances. However, worse was to follow. When the Potters secured the deadline-day capture of Gianelli Imbula in January 2016, they cancelled van Ginkel’s contract and he was back at Chelsea again.

That was the first time PSV stepped in and secured his services temporarily and his return to the Eredivise reinvigorated him. On his debut against Utrecht, he scored in a 2-0 away win. The following week he scored again against Nijmegen. He’d score six more times before the season was up as PSV were crowned domestic champions.

It looked like van Ginkel was finally up and running after so many stops and starts. But he was struggling with a knee injury and he made the decision to stay in London and receive treatment instead of rejoining PSV. That meant he remained isolated and exiled after recovering – a long way from new boss Antonio Conte’s first-team.

Yet, despite all of that, in December came the news that van Ginkel had extended his deal with Chelsea. After three loan spells with three different clubs across three different countries in two different seasons, Chelsea wanted to keep him. And van Ginkel seemed happy enough to sign the deal too.

But, very quickly, he was back at PSV and – echoing 12 months earlier – he revelled in a return to Dutch football. He scored seven times, though the club fell short of the title and finished third.

Republic of Ireland v Netherlands - International Friendly - Aviva Stadium Source: NurPhoto

With van Ginkel having enjoyed two loan stints with PSV, a transfer surely made sense for everyone concerned ahead of the 2017/2018 season. Completely out of favour at Chelsea, who only announced the expensive signing of midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko yesterday, a permanent switch seemed inevitable.

And then, earlier today, came the news that van Ginkel had extended his Chelsea deal until 2020 but will spend the whole of next season on loan at PSV – his third temporary stint at the club and his fifth overall since moving to London in 2013.

Ironically, the latest Chelsea statement references his background with the club with the following line:

“The Dutch international’s Chelsea career began in 2013 when he signed from Vitesse.”

Van Ginkel’s Chelsea career, in actual fact, has never begun.

In four years, he has made four appearances for Chelsea but has signed two contract extensions despite not being part of the club’s plans.

Much had been made of Chelsea’s loan system in the past, with 38 players at various clubs at the start of last season and Van Ginkel’s situation makes a further mockery of the entire thing.

Yet another microcosm of modern football.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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