Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino may be thanking the club for doing some business behind his back after securing the signing of Cole Palmer late in the transfer window. The Blues paid around £40million up front to sign the attacker from Manchester City, a deal that left many people surprised given the expedited nature of the deal and Palmer’s eventual breakthrough into the first team. And now, Pochettino will be grateful the club’s transfer chiefs pulled off what could prove to be a bargain deal in the future.
When Palmer was announced as a new signing late in the transfer window, Pochettino made it clear from the outset that this was not a deal he could take credit for – or lambasted for if it went wrong. Instead, he revealed that the club’s sporting directors, Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, had made the decision to bring in Palmer.
“I think the sporting director and the owner of course, but the sporting director… it was his idea to add him [Palmer] to the squad, ” Pochettino told reporters at a news conference in September. “I think he’s fit for the project. Talented player, of course.”
Palmer had come highly recommended by City boss Pep Guardiola, who had gradually eased him into the first team despite the array of attacking talent at the Etihad.
After impressing on his debut at the age of 18 nearly three years ago, Guardiola’s comparison to Phil Foden made sense given their wand of a left foot and ease at dribbling past opponents. And his goal against Arsenal in the Community Shield in August did nothing to prove that was unrealistic now that he has developed even more, even if Foden is more established.
“He is an incredible young lad in the training sessions. Since two months ago he has showed us a lot of things. He has a good future in this club,” he told the club’s official website in October 2020. “He is a humble guy. He is a guy with incredible finishing, like Phil.”
Given that he wasn’t his signing, Palmer has had to work hard to win over his new boss in his first month. But it hasn’t taken long for Chelsea fans to get excited about seeing what he has to offer – and now Pochettino is head over heels with the 21-year-old, who made a huge impression in the 1-0 win over Brighton in the Carabao Cup.
His performance caught the eye, so much so that the Argentine was convinced to hand him his full Premier League debut against Fulham last Monday.
The 51-year-old boss gushed over his efforts in training in his first month at Cobham, indicating he was ready for the next step up.
“I’m so happy with his performance after only a few weeks with us,” he said. “He was able to perform very well and fit very well in the team. He is a talented player, young talented player but I think he is in my mind to start on Monday.”
It was not a decision Pochettino would end up regretting as Palmer ran the Cottagers ragged in a supreme first-half performance.
Palmer’s quick thinking that helped him intercept Tim Ream’s careless pass and he threaded it to Armando Broja, who scored in fortuitous fashion to double their lead and help seal a 2-0 win.
As he walked off the pitch, the Chelsea fans in the away end applauded Palmer for a committed and creative performance. He may be playing for a different club than Foden after deciding to leave his boyhood club behind, but there is every chance he could follow in his footsteps and become a regular in no time – just like his fellow City academy graduate.