Back in 2011, Oriol Romeu Vidal decided to swap Barcelona for Chelsea at age twenty. This came after featuring as a first team player for Barcelona B and making his first appearance in La Liga. He seemingly had the world at his feet. So why did he leave and where did it go wrong?
Granted, getting into Barcelona’s first team is no picnic. With the emergence of Busquets, plus Inesita and Xavi as competition, this is as hard as a fight can possibly get. Understandably, a fight he clearly didn’t fancy.
This world class competition soon helped to pave way the way for a move to Premier League giants, Chelsea. A club with bags of money, Premier League titles and… a worrying reputation in developing young talents for their own use.
Its a well known fact that Chelsea are not the greatest at inter-grating young talents into the first team, whether that be through the academy or as transfer. Josh Mceachran, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Mohammed Salah just to name a few in recent years. This is something that Romeu clearly wasn’t advised on. So what would have happened if he’d stayed at Barca?
We know he was highly thought of at the Catalan giants. Although he moved on to Chelsea, Barcelona still ensured to put in place a five million transfer fee and first refusal buy back clauses. Ten million if they bought him back in 2012, or 15 million if they brought him back in 2013. Why would you put in place buy back clauses if you couldn’t see something special?
Not to mention that he had already played his first game for the club before HE decided to move on. He was not forced out of the club, if anything, they wanted to keep him.
Had Romeu stayed injury free and continued in the same vain as his first season at Chelsea, Barcelona would have acted on the buy back clause. This would have been nothing out of the ordinary- Fabregas, Alba and Pique are three perfect examples of what could have happened. It goes without saying that Barcelona hold an incredible number of talents. As a result, they have allowed players to make their name elsewhere, only to bring them back home. This may well have been the master plan for Romeu.
He started brightly at Chelsea, going on to make 24 appearances in the number six shirt. This featured a number of bench appearance’s but as the season went on, Chelsea fans saw more and more of the Spaniard. He was becoming a fan favourite. Good on the ball, the eye for a pass and able to carry out his defensive duties; he was the complete midfielder. The prospect of Romeu partnered with Frank Lampard was an exciting one. At twenty years old, Romeu was making an impression, you could tell he was schooled at La Masia. He had that air about him, he always had time on the ball. He was calm, playing for Chelsea didn’t seem to phase him.
He even featured in the build up to Chelsea’s famous 2012 Champions League win against Bayern Munich, under manager Roberto Di Matteo. Romeu was seemingly unfazed by the competition at all times, making 3 appearances.Throughout his Chelsea career he won the Champions League, the Europa League (Chelsea’s only European triumphs to date) and the FA Cup. That experience will prove vital during Southampton’s European involvements this season. This is experience that only Romeu’s ex team mate Ryan Bertrand shares.
His impression at the club was growing and in 2012, Roberto Di Matteo stated that Yossi Benayoun, Michael Essien and Raul Meireles would all be leaving the club – resulting in more opportunities for the young Spaniard. Then it all came crashing down, on the 11th of December he suffered a knee injury against Sunderland, an injury that would keep him out for the rest of the season. That is arguably the injury that changed it all.
With such an injury at a club like Chelsea, its almost the beginning of the end. On return from his injury set back, Romeu was sent home to Valencia. The La Liga club are one with ambition and a pedigree as one of the best teams in Spain, it was a smart move for both clubs and the player. During his time at the club he made 18 appearances as the club finished 8th. A solid season. He did however pick up a training ground injury to his knee that kept him out for a month. But it happened the once, and hasn’t happened since.
After returning from his loan spell he went ahead to sign a new contract until 2017 at Chelsea (another indicator of his obvious talent) and went out on loan (again) to Stuttgart. He played 27 times for the club in a season of turmoil, narrowly missing relegation by the skin of their teeth. One point to be exact. But, he was an ever-present shining light, doing the best job possible in a side that lacked players with the quality or desire to compete.
So, here we are. He’s joined Southampton having just today made his first Premier League appearance for over two years. With a midfield void that needs to be filled and Romeu having a point to prove, this could be the move to get his career back on track. Rather the same way that Southampton helped to guide Ryan Bertrand back into the England set up.
To put it simply, this looks to be a very smart signing. To secure a talented 23 year old in a much needed position can be considered brilliant business, especially given Southampton’s ability to squeeze every drop of talent to the surface. Even more so for just five million pounds.
Fans along the south coast will be hopeful that it is yet another piece of genius pulled from the black box.
Those who have witnessed Romeu play will be very aware of the positions he likes to take up on the field, therefore knowing that he can fill in for the now departed Morgan Schneiderlin. With Romeu’s addition, Southampton can once again revert to playing two centre defensive midfielder’s, in front of the back four; this successful system has become second nature for Southampton and helps to add protection for the back line. Whenever Southampton move away from this defensive partnership, the chances of picking up all three points quickly fade away. This may well be a shoe in fit for Romeu.
Finally, working under Barcelona legend Ronald Koeman shall be that of an honour to the La Masia academy starlet.
Oriol Romeu Vidal, your career is in safe hands. Welcome to Southampton.