Conor Gallagher’s meteoric rise raises fresh transfer question for Chelsea after hitting the big time

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·4-min read
Conor Gallagher’s meteoric rise raises fresh transfer question for Chelsea after hitting the big time
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Perhaps the biggest surprise, given Conor Gallagher’s meteoric rise this season, is that he did not get on the score sheet for England.

He came close – hitting the post with one effort and getting his finish wrong with another – when making his Three Lions debut against San Marino on Monday night.

Of course, it was a remarkable achievement for Gallagher to be involved at all – just four months after England were beaten Euro 2020 finalists and his name was nowhere near Gareth Southgate’s squad.

A spectacular start to the season for Crystal Palace has seen him thrust his way onto the international scene as well raise the question of whether he could be the latest of Chelsea’s academy graduates to make the grade at Stamford Bridge.

His form under Patrick Vieira has not gone unnoticed by Thomas Tuchel, with the German and his scouts keeping a close eye on Gallagher’s progress. Chelsea’s manager was happy to make him part of his squad this season, following a successful loan at West Brom, but the opportunity to play regularly at Palace was seen as a better path to speed up his development.

That has so far paid off with the 21-year-old the stand-out performer for Vieira – scoring four goals, including one in the recent 2-0 win against Manchester City.

That contribution, alone, has made his move to Palace a valuable one from Chelsea’s perspective – taking points off one of their main Premier League title rivals.

But the next question is whether he can emulate his current form if given the chance in blue.

“I am just thinking about this season with Crystal Palace, doing as best I can for them, and do as well as we can in the Premier League,” said Gallagher after coming off the bench at half-time against San Marino.

“That’s most important for me now.

“To be honest I didn’t expect to be here at all. I was with the Under 21s preparing for our next game. That’s when I got a call from Gareth to come and join the senior team.

“I was over the moon. I was hoping to get some minutes so I could make my debut and thankfully I did.”

Mason Mount and Reece James are the recent standard-bearers for emerging talent at Chelsea, returning from loans at Derby and Wigan respectively, to become key players under Tuchel.

Gallagher is someone who is genuinely exciting people back at Chelsea, with his all-action, box-to-box game having the potential to add something different to their midfield.

A consistent theme among those who have worked with him and watched him closely, has been the purpose of his seemingly boundless runs, with an intelligence beyond his years and experience.

Given N’Golo Kante’s fitness concerns in recent years, he would make an obvious deputy to the France midfielder and a possible alternative to long-term target Declan Rice – even if not a like-for-like one.

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

England U21 coach Ashley Cole said of Gallagher this week: “You could speak about his qualities all over the pitch. He is willing to run for players without the ball, makes unselfish runs and has the quality and maturity with it.

“I personally think his mentality is great and the call up has been coming to the senior team. He has shown his quality throughout the season. He has been a big player for Crystal Palace and one of the leaders of that group.”

Vieira’s appointment at Palace in the summer made a move to Selhurst Park even more appealing for Chelsea. Gallagher already credits the Arsenal legend with taking his game to a new level in even a short space of time together.

“Working under Patrick is amazing,” he said. “He was one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. To learn from him and work under him is brilliant.

“He helps me a lot, tactically. Most importantly, which is really good, is how he knows my strengths and tells me what to do in terms of that.

“So I am allowed to make the box and do what I do best, which is part of the reason why I’ve had a good start to the season.”

The challenge now is for Gallagher to maintain those levels. Chelsea – and England - are watching.

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