Chelsea teenager Nathaniel Chalobah enjoyed a breakout season when on loan at Watford last term and he looks likely to continue his footballing with education a fresh loan to a Premier League side.
At present the side who have been most consistently linked with the 19-year-old is Crystal Palace and given the player is understood to favour staying in London, they look to hold an advantage over fellow pursuers Cardiff.
Chalobah came to wider prominence in the heart of Gianfranco Zola’s Hornets midfield last term, but had previously played much of his football at centre-half, where he has turned out again during Chelsea’s pre-season tour of Asia.
For Watford he showed that the footballing brain and positional sense that had made him a notable defensive prospect were more widely applicable, with the vision for an incisive pass and an eye for goal both in evidence as he amassed 38 league starts.
A move to a Premier League also-ran has proved a useful stepping stone for promising players from the top teams in the past, with Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge proving their worth at Bolton Wanderers and Romelu Lukaku playing himself into the Chelsea reckoning with a promising campaign at West Brom.
A season at Palace – 8/15 favourites for relegation this term – would likely be even more character building given the likelihood that the Eagles will be up against it all season and it’s not immediately obvious where he would fit in.
2012/13 player of the year Mile Jedinak and fellow fan-favourite Kagisho Dikgacoi had the midfield locked down for the Eagles last term, meanwhile in the centre of defence he’ll have to force his way past experienced practitioners Peter Ramage, Danny Gabbidon, Damien Delaney and club captain Paddy McCarthy.
His alternative is stay at Stamford Bridge in the hope that he can force his way into the first team reckoning and bizarrely this may be the shrewder move for the youngster.
With Jose Mourinho playing down the possibility of further signings in what looks – with Daniele De Rossi too expensive and Luiz Gustavo no world beater – an uninspiring marketplace for defensive midfielders, the man who has captained Chelsea at every single youth level has every chance of making an impact.
Rumours of John Obi Mikel’s departure refuse to go away and if he leaves then Chalobah could find himself within grasping distance of regular starts, with only converted centre-back David Luiz and potentially Oriel Romeu ahead of him in the pecking order.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.