To the surprise of very few Chelsea fans, Fikayo Tomori has been great since joining AC Milan on loan in January.
Having fallen well out of favour under Frank Lampard, who preferred the error-prone trio of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma far too often in 2019/20, Tomori joined the Rossoneri on a short-term deal to try to reignite his stalling career, and he has done exactly that.
While most were happy to see Tomori leave on loan for the good of his career, Chelsea’s decision to hand Milan the option to sign him permanently for around £26m raised a few eyebrows.
Good. So it should be.
You see, the way this ‘football’ thing works is that good players cost a little bit of money. That fee rises when that player is young and comes with impressive potential, and when you’re asking an English team to sell an England international with three years left on his contract, that fee goes up a little more.
Tomori should not come cheap and Chelsea should reject any attempts from Milan to lower his asking price. At this point, it’s £26m or nothing, but it shouldn’t have even made it this far anyway.
Chelsea should never have put themselves in a position where losing Tomori is an option. Centre-back is still a weak spot in the Blues’ squad, and unless they can come up with an anti-ageing potion for Thiago Silva, it’s only going to get worse.
Christensen and Rudiger are both enjoying a recent resurgence under Thomas Tuchel, but doubts remain about both. As for Zouma, a summer exit looks likely after seeing him lose his place under the new boss.
Chelsea are clearly well aware of the need to improve at the back. Club officials are looking to sign a young centre-back with experience this summer, but they already have one of those shining at San Siro.
Granted, Tomori’s combined 21 appearances across the Premier League and Serie A doesn’t exactly match up to Ibrahima Konate’s 60 in the Bundesliga or Jose Gimenez’s 143 in La Liga, but ruling him out so early would just be ridiculous.
Tomori has quickly turned into a fan favourite at Milan, a club who know all about elite defenders, and he looks capable of blossoming into a real force of nature. Why let Milan enjoy that at your own expense?
He’s obviously not the finished article just yet. Poor positioning has often been named as a potential flaw in his game, and his much-heralded recovery tackle on Jordan Veretout in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Roma only came about because he was caught out of position in the first place. The flaws are there to see. Relying on recovery pace isn’t exactly ideal.
If you want to justify Chelsea’s openness to the idea of losing Tomori permanently, there’s your best argument, but giving up on such an exciting prospect after less than one season is an awful idea, and one Chelsea know about far too well.
Romelu Lukaku was given ten Premier League games before being binned. Mohamed Salah made it up to 13. Kevin De Bruyne managed three. These are three of the world’s best footballers who would have been starring for Chelsea if the Blues had shown them an ounce of patience.
Tomori should be brought back to Stamford Bridge and given regular minutes in defence – an easier prospect if Tuchel continues to play with three defenders. When Silva goes and Cesar Azpilicueta starts to decline, the ready-made replacement is there.
If Tomori does have to leave this summer, it shouldn’t be for a penny less than £26m. Milan would be getting a bargain at that price, and anything else would be daylight robbery.