Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.
In recent years, Chelsea have developed a habit of having a big strong forward leading their line. Starting with Didier Drogba, then going to Romelu Lukaku, and then going right back to Drogba for some reason, Chelsea’s forwards have stood out for their size and strength. Now, a polarizing figure in Diego Costa sits as the lead man, but another exciting prospect, Michy Batshuayi, has donned the Chelsea jersey and he looks set to continue the Blues’ trend of big number nines.
Michy Batshuayi was somewhat of a nomadic character during his youth career in Belgium. Before he ended up signing with Standard Liege, the striker spent time in Brussels, Anderlecht and several other clubs before he even turned 15.
After settling in with Standard Liege and spending a couple years in their academy system, a 17-year-old Batshuayi would make his professional debut for the club in 2011. That season, he got two brief tastes for first team football appearing for just eight minutes on his debut, and then for another two minutes the following week. Unsurprisingly, he was unable to find a goal or supply an assist during his limited time on the pitch.
The following year, his role in the first team grew substantially. After making just two appearances the previous season, Batshuayi would go on to play 33 games between all competitions for the club, including eight in the Europa League. The increase in playing time yielded nine goals (six in the league and one in Europe). It was clear that the teenager was going to play a pivotal role in the club’s near future.
Over the next two seasons, the teenager would continue to grow into one of the most exciting prospects in European football. A 12-goal season in 2012/13 was followed up by a 23-goal run the next year. He would finish 2013/14 as the league’s highest goal scorer and it was only a matter of time before a bigger club came looking for him.
Moving to Marseille
As expected, 2013/14 was Batshuayi’s final season in the Belgian top flight. £4.5 million was the reported price that it took for French giants Marseille to sign the promising Belgian. His first season in Ligue 1 came with a bit of learning curve as he spent the majority of the year coming off of the bench. Out of his 26 league appearances, 20 came as a substitute, but he was still able to find the back of the net nine times. On three separate occasions, he managed to bag a brace, and in two of those matches he was coming on as a substitute.
His impressive displays during his debut season with the club pushed Batshuayi into the starting 11 for his second and final year at Marseille. 2015/16 would prove to be the 22-year-old’s breakout campaign as he scored an incredible 27 goals through all competitions. In his 12 Europa League appearances, he slotted home seven times, but Marseille were unable to advance past the Round of 32. On top of the European disappointment, Marseille struggled to a 13th place finish in the league.
Despite his team’s poor finish to the season, Batshuayi’s ridiculous form attracted the attention of seemingly every major club in Europe. Newly appointed Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made the big Belgian striker his first official signing at the club costing him a reported fee of €40 million. The 22-year-old came on as a substitute during Chelsea’s opening match against West Ham United for his competitive debut.
Batshuayi didn’t start representing Belgium on the senior stage until the qualifying rounds of Euro 2016. In his international debut against Cyprus, he even managed to grab a goal. The Marseille man was selected in Marc Wilmot’s final 23-man squad for the tournament and would make two appearances in the tournament, scoring a goal against Hungary in the Round of 16 before being eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Style of Play
If you’re looking for a prototypical Chelsea striker, Michy Batshuayi is probably your man. Reminiscent of Didier Drogba, the 22-year-old can impose his will on defenders through his brute size and strength, but he also a little bit of pace to him, as well. He’s still a young player and has yet to reach the peak of his abilities so Chelsea fans will likely see him grow bigger, stronger and better during his time at the Bridge. With comparison to a club legend like Drogba, expectations will be very high for Batshuayi to produce in the final third.