Chelsea should adore Conor Gallagher like Johnny Nic does

Date published: Sunday 26th December 2021 8:44 - Ian Watson

Conor Gallagher celebrates scoring for Crystal Palace.

John Nicholson is rather taken with Crystal Palace loanee Conor Gallagher. Will Chelsea show the England midfielder some love too?

 

Who’s this then?
Conor John Gallagher is a 21-year-old six-foot-tall midfielder, contracted to Chelsea but on loan at Crystal Palace. He is one of the most dynamic and exciting young midfielders playing at the moment.

He was signed by Chelsea as an eight-year-old. In 2018-19 he was the club’s Academy Player of the Year and made the bench for the Europa League final. However, Chelsea are hardly short of fantastic midfielders so in 2019-20 he was farmed out on loan to Charlton Athletic, playing 26 games for them, then moving to Swansea and playing 21 times for them. Last season saw him at West Brom playing 32 times.

Throughout this period, he has kept topping his contract up at Chelsea and it now runs until 2025. This year he has really caught the eye at Crystal Palace. Even though he’s only played 17 games so far, he’s scored six times.

He is already on Gareth Southgate’s radar, perhaps especially being a Palace player, same as the England boss was back in the day. He has represented England at every under-age level, playing 36 games from U-17 to U-21. He was handed his first cap in the San Marino 10-0 massacre.

His first half of the season at Palace has been so successful, they will almost certainly want to sign him, but will Chelsea let him go? That isn’t clear.

 


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Why the love?
What is so lovable about the lad is the sheer joy he plays the game with. He never stops moving, is always on his toes, shifting into space, hard to pick up and ready to pounce. His first goal against Everton in a 3-1 win was typical. He finds the space eight yards out and pokes it home. It is all about positioning and awareness. His second, a 25-yard bender into the top corner must be the club’s goal of the season so far. He’s just quicker and sharper than the defence, robs the ball and bam, thank you and goodnight.

And when he scores, there is no too-cool-for-school pouting and half-hearted sh*tty rehearsed routines which make all fans cringe, just a big beaming smile and howling for joy.

He scored the second in Palace’s win at Manchester City where the champions just could not handle his vision, pace and energy. That was a marker for his quality. It’s one thing doing it against poor sides, a different thing altogether to do it against the best.

He fits perfectly into the Patrick Vieira revitalisation programme for Palace. He’s young, energetic, dynamic, run-all-day box-to-box player who is versatile enough and dangerous enough to play further forward if needed.

This means he brings fuel to the fire. Time and again this season, his tireless work and direct play has dragged his team forward. Once you’ve had that kind of player, when he doesn’t play, you really miss him.

When on loan at Charlton, Lee Bowyer – a man who knows a bit about being a tireless midfielder – commended his work rate and grit in the tackle and that is certainly one of his biggest assets.

Any fit player can just run around like a headless chicken all day but Gallagher has married tireless Bryan Robson-style energy with great timing and that’s helped the goals to start to flow.

When he came at half-time for England against San Marino, he was the veritable puppy let off the leash in the park, dashing almost manically all over the pitch, wanting to get his first goal. It is great to see youngsters playing for England with such enthusiasm and passion. It has not always been the case.

 

Three great moments

Two great goals against Everton…

 

The boy’s got some talent…

 

August’s Player of the Month…

What the people say

– As a Palace fan he’s just joyous to watch. Seems to play with as much enthusiasm and love for the game as he does talent. If (and I doubt it) Chelsea are willing to sell we would have to do all we can to get him permanently.

– Love him. Love him. Love him.

– He works incredibly hard, he does lots of things to a very high standard and he has lots of fun while he does them. The true version of “playing football the right way”

– Will Chelsea let him go? Hard to say. Is probably a couple of years away from ousting a starting midfielder but needs to play more than he would as a very capable backup to Kante or Jorginho

– If he leads Palace to a great final placing in the table it’s not hard to see a bigger club that plays 4-3-3 breaking their transfer record to sign him and get him to do the same job for them.

– Could see someone having to pay £50m with a sell on clause as well

– Wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea asked for £100m off a Champions League team or a record fee plus generous sell on from anyone else. They don’t need to sell him, if he forces a move to play it could cost him personally an eye watering amount.

– He’s a really exciting player, can do all the things that make a top midfielder, as opposed to specialising in one thing. He should be in Chelsea starting XI next season, ahead of Kovacic (doesn’t score goals), RLC, Barkley and the frankly awful Saul.

 

– After 8 games, I put him in my all-time palace XI that I’ve seen play (back to late 90s). Does most parts of the game very well, tackles like tackling is still part of the game, incredibly direct and celebrates goals like he’s a fan! Plus he’s gorgeous.

 

Future days
Chelsea’s business model is a numbers game. They sign up loads of youngsters, train them on, get the best ones to pro contracts, then farm them out on loan, often never having any intention to put them in the first-team. Unless they’re world beaters, eventually they are sold, making them a tidy profit. They have 22 out on loan at the moment. Conor is one such player, only he’s obviously top class and already an international, which does beg the question, will they sell him to Palace who surely want to buy him?

How much would he cost to buy? A lot. And it’s not like Chelsea need the money. With a contract that runs until 2025, they could keep loaning him out for a couple more years and make a decision whether to sell in the last year. Indeed, it seems likely that is what they will do, as he’s not likely to supplant Jorginho or N’Golo Kante this or next year. Then again, if the second half of the season is as good as the first, maybe Thomas Tuchel will feel he is too good to exclude. That is far from unlikely, not least because he will up the energy and pace in the side. If so, it makes all talk of transfer fees irrelevant.

However, the last thing he needs is to become a benched back-up player. That would be a criminal waste of such talent. However he may cost more than double the record £27million Palace paid for Christian Benteke, which may be too rich for their blood, but not so for Newcastle United, who would no doubt add a massive wage on top of that. Obviously, Conor, like many others, maybe a bit squeamish at signing for them, but then, a stupid amount of money is hard to turn down, even if it comes with bloody fingerprints on it. Obviously, staying at Chelsea and competing at the top of the league will look more attractive than trying to get out of the Championship with the Magpies.

However and wherever the next phase of his career plays out, he is set to become a massive English football star who will, sooner or later, ply his trade on the biggest stages.

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