Back when he first joined Chelsea from Marseille in the summer of 2016, Michy Batshuayi seemed young for his age. Only 22 when he arrived in west London, the Belgian striker had scored 23 goals in France the previous season but still looked hugely raw up front. Despite scoring twice in a pre-season friendly against Austrian side Atus Ferlach and immediately showing his fizzing pace, athleticism and penchant for getting in behind the defence, Chelsea’s new boy seemed to have a naive streak which was both appealing and in sharp contrast to the cynical effectiveness of first-choice striker Diego Costa.
Having laid on an assist for Costa in his competitive debut against West Ham and scored three goals in his next two games for the Blues, Batshuayi would not score again for over four months. Lacking Costa’s competitive nastiness and combative instincts, Batshuayi struggled to impose himself on the team even as he showed glimmers of brilliance. Mainly brought on as an impact sub and limited to appearances off the bench, Batshuayi managed a couple more goals in the FA Cup before going on a late scoring run in the Premier League. One of those goals – a winner against West Brom – clinched the title for Chelsea, which at least added a memorable finale to an otherwise modest season for the youngster.
Off the pitch Batshuayi documented a Peter Pan lifestyle through social media, his Instagram a colourful medley of wavey garms, SpongeBob Squarepants merch and giant Dragon Ball Z figurines. While it’s advisable not to read too much into a footballer’s internet presence, Batshuayi projected a guilelessness in almost everything that he did. Even before the arrival of Roman Abramovich in 2003, Chelsea has never been a club for naive souls or a haven of childlike innocence. Even as Batshuayi picked up his scoring rate in the first half of this season, there was a feeling that he was too callow, too unworldly, to become a permanent fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Higher education at Dortmund
Now, after his fast start on loan at Borussia Dortmund, it seems like high time for Michy Batshuayi to mature into the footballer his raw ability suggests he can be. Batshuayi scored twice on his debut against Cologne and another in his second match against Hamburg, and there are signs that he is ready to grow up and shoulder the responsibility of replacing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after the former BVB front man’s move to Arsenal. Dortmund deserve their reputation for developing up-and-coming youngsters into Europe’s most sought-after assets, as Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Aubameyang himself can attest.
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While Abramovich is reportedly fond of Batshuayi and made sure that his move to BVB was only on loan – according to Dortmund CEO Hans Joachim-Watzke, “[a permanent option] was a no go for Chelsea… when Roman Abramovich says no, it is a no” – the ‘Batman’ now has the opportunity to graduate from the Premier League playground and benefit from a higher education in the Bundesliga. Considering Dortmund’s record of refining raw talents into world-renowned players, Batshuayi will never get a better chance to prove that he is more than just a capable kid.