Our Man In Cologne (10/02/16)

With John Terry set to leave in the summer and Kurt Zouma injured for six months, Chelsea could really do with a centre back right now. The good news is that they have promising 19 year old defender Andreas Christensen out on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach. The bad news is that they can’t recall him. 

“We are delighted that we were able to take him on loan without any ifs or buts,” says Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl. That’s because Christensen signed a two-year loan deal with Gladbach last summer. There’s not even a clause to recall him after a year. On Friday night, I asked Christensen whether he wants to return to London.

“It’s hard to say because if I go back and don’t get the opportunity, this [Gladbach] might be the opportunity,” says the lanky Dane. “I’m thinking about doing my two seasons, doing as good as I can and then see what the future holds. When I get back to Chelsea, I still have three years [on my contract], so it’s really up to them. I’m happy in both places.”

That happiness stems from the fact that for the first time in his short career, he’s been playing regular first team football and Friday night saw him score his first senior goals, two of the five that Gladbach hit against Werder Bremen.

He’s already been tagged ‘the new John Terry’ and that sort of thing is likely to continue, but Christensen compared his playing style to Ricardo Carvalho in an interview with local paper Rheinische Post in December. On Friday, he showed more of a likeness to Terry by being in the right place at the right time in the opposition box.

With Gladbach one up, fellow young prodigy Mahmoud Dahoud sliced the ball through a crowded six-yard box and loitering at the back post was Christensen to tap in his first professional goal, not that you’d have known by his muted celebration. 

For his second, he headed home from a corner after powering past his marker, fellow Chelsea loanee Papy Djilobodji. He was now on a hat-trick but he wasn’t interested in taking the penalty Gladbach won with a little over twenty minutes to go. Christensen just jogged over to the side to take a swig from a sports bottle. 

“Raffa [Raffael] is definitely the one to take it. He’s a striker. It’s more important that he gets goals than I do,” says Christensen, having already stated twice how the team’s success was more important than any personal achievement on the night.

The one thing he struggled with on Friday was remembering the last time he scored twice in a game. “It must be…[pauses] I think [pauses] it must be even before I went to Chelsea. Maybe, when I was an under 15 or 16 or something like that. It hasn’t happened in a long time!”

Never before? “Nah. When I was a kid [in Denmark] I was a striker. So I scored a lot of goals.” 

He scored so many that it was like a conveyor belt, according to latest edition of Gladbach’s monthly magazine Fohlen Echo with their interview with Christensen also telling of how his dad Sten was a goalkeeper back in Denmark.

When a man called Peter Schmeichel moved to Manchester United in 1992, Sten Christensen was his replacement at Brøndby. Andreas even used to play for a side coached by his dad but being the caring type, Sten ‘altered’ Andreas’s age so he played one year above his age group. It doesn’t look to have done him any harm in the long run.

Goalkeeper Yann Sommer has played behind Christensen this season. In his opinion, the young Dane is a great talent. “He’s young but you can’t see this on the pitch. He looks really experienced.” 

His performance at the back on Friday fitted into that description. Once again, he was calm on the ball, not being afraid to carry it forward whilst also having the dribbling skills to wriggle his way out of a tight situation. When it comes to positioning, you’d have struggled to find his gangly figure in the wrong place. If so, he had the speed to make up for it.

Sommer goes on to refer to him as a boy three times. The Swiss’s grasp of English is good enough to read something into that – namely just how young Christensen is and just how well he’s played too, considering he’s faced the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mario Mandzukic and Sergio Agüero this season.

Christensen deserves recognition for how he’s bounced back since a shoddy league debut at Dortmund where Gladbach lost 4-0. In England, you imagine that at 19, he would have been chucked back into the reserve team. In Germany, a second chance arrived and he took it. Injuries to others helped initially but he is now what the Germans call a Stammspieler – a regular.

He played five out of their six Champions League games, while in the Bundesliga he’s played 17 of their 20 games. And yet, as a young player, many might question why you’d ever move to Chelsea in the first place. John Terry was the last youth team player to come through and really make it with the club. That breakthrough came in 1998, when Andreas Christensen was two.

Having arrived in London in 2012 when he was 16, Christensen is one of a staggering 34 players Chelsea have out on loan but he’s convinced he made the right choice.

“If you go to Chelsea, you get opportunities like this. Borussia Mönchengladbach keeps an eye out. If I’d gone to a smaller club, maybe Borussia wouldn’t have seen me,” he says.

“They’re so good at planning what they want to do with you. You can’t really say no.” Christensen mentions how he’s still in regular contact with Chelsea’s loan department. They send him analysis of how he’s doing which Christensen says, if anything, is a little bit longer than what Gladbach do with him.

Christensen mentions that he’s even been in contact with John Terry though given what’s been happening with Chelsea’s season, that hasn’t been as regular as it once was. Yet Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer hopes that will play for Borussia for some years. So too does coach André Schubert and sporting director Max Eberl but Christensen might yet be that rarest of gems – a Chelsea loanee who ends up playing for his parent club.

You can follow Archie Rhind-Tutt on Twitter (@archiert1)

Our Man In Cologne (10/02/16)
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