Saul Niguez made his Chelsea debut on Saturday as the Blues beat Aston Villa. It wasn’t exactly one for him to remember, however.
We were pretty delighted with that. We’d actually written back in March that he’d be a fantastic signing, right after initial reports came out that he wanted to leave Atletico Madrid.
It was clear that Gini Wijnaldum would depart, after all. Saul would have been an ideal replacement as a left-sided central midfielder. He’s naturally left-footed, thrives on playing box-to-box and appears to fit Liverpool’s style very well.
It became apparent that the Reds wouldn’t win the race, however. AS later claimed that Liverpool had an offer in place but Manchester United quickly rose the prices involved.
As explained here, they did have an upper hand.
Instead, he went to Chelsea and Saturday saw Saul make his debut. So how did it go?
Saul struggles on Chelsea debut
Saul lasted 45 minutes on his debut, being hooked at half-time. Thomas Tuchel explained why after the game.
“Well, it was hard to do but I had a feeling that he struggles,” Tuchel told Sky Sports. “He had some big mistakes. Passing mistakes, errors and he struggled with the intensity.
“You could see that he’s not fully adapted. It’s completely my responsibility. I thought that maybe he could just jump in and play for us.”
Honestly, as much as we wanted Saul, it sounds as though Liverpool made the right call. They won’t have liked paying a player £200k per week for a slow impact.
Liverpool typically wait a long time before throwing players in. Fabinho didn’t play for months after his arrival, for instance, and didn’t start a big game in a 4-3-3 until the following March.
And so if Saul is struggling with the intensity at Chelsea, it’s fair to say that he’d have struggled badly at Liverpool. We may not have seen him for months and there’s not actually a guarantee that he ever clicks.
Naby Keita, after all, is still trying to fully adapt at Liverpool – and he’s on nothing like £200k per week.
Now, this isn’t us justifying Liverpool’s transfer business this summer. We still think they’ll regret not bringing in a midfielder or forward. But it does sound like they made the right call on Saul.
He was an expensive risk and one that maybe wasn’t entirely worth taking.