Joao Felix is a €100m luxury Chelsea can't afford this summer - but negotiating a loan extension would be in the Blues' best interests

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Joao Felix Chelsea 2022-23
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As he approaches the end of his short-term loan at Stamford Bridge, the forward finds himself in limbo, and a permanent transfer is highly unlikely

Joao Felix's January loan move to Chelsea was supposed to be a game-changer for both the attacker and the Blues, but with the season drawing to a close, the former prodigy finds himself in limbo. While he has demonstrated his exceptional talent in flashes, Felix - along with the vast majority of the Chelsea squad - has struggled for form and consistency, and is yet to shake the tag of being a 'luxury player'.

Indeed, he has drifted out of favour since Frank Lampard's return to the dugout, falling victim to the interim manager's desperate search for a solution to Chelsea's goalscoring woes. As a result, a permanent switch to Stamford Bridge now seems highly unlikely - especially given Atletico Madrid are still holding out for their exorbitant €100 million (£87m/$110m) valuation.

However, there is talk of a fresh loan to Chelsea for a player who may well find himself priced out of a move anywhere else in the summer, with Mauricio Pochettino preparing to take the reins at Stamford Bridge. Opinion among the fanbase is seemingly divided on the best course of action, with the Blues' bloated squad having been problematic throughout a nightmare campaign.

There is a big decision to be made that could well define a vital upcoming period for both club and player, and another spell at Chelsea could be the best option for all parties...

  1. A bright spark despite Chelsea's struggles

    Felix has perhaps fallen foul of his very fast start in a Chelsea shirt; the first 58 minutes of his debut were dazzling as he demonstrated the kind of technical ability that supporters haven't seen since the days of Eden Hazard.

    Of course, that is a game that now lives in infamy after Felix was shown a straight red card for an overzealous challenge and Chelsea went on to lose the west London derby at Fulham. Who knows what would have happened had he stayed on the pitch and avoided a three-game suspension.

    Almost inevitably, Felix scored upon his return against West Ham and was regularly Chelsea's best player in the subsequent games. However, following a dip in form that coincided with the Blues' six-game losing streak in all competitions, many supporters were quick to pass judgement and label his loan spell a failure.

    Though he is guilty of overplaying at times and drifting out of games, Felix - who is still just 23 years old - has demonstrated his world-class potential in flashes, while his technical ability is second to none in Chelsea's squad. Given more time to adapt there is no doubt that he has the ability to become a 15-goal-per-season player in the Premier League.

    His six-minute cameo off the bench against Bournemouth, in what was Lampard's first win since returning to Chelsea, was a timely demonstration of the impact he is capable of. Popping up in midfield, Felix started and finished a sweeping move as the Blues suddenly remembered how to play football, exchanging neat passes with Ruben Loftus-Cheek before making his way into the penalty area and slotting a classy first-time finish beyond the goalkeeper from Raheem Sterling's pass.

    It's also worth noting that he has scored almost a quarter of Chelsea's Premier League goals since his arrival and is already their joint-third top goalscorer for the entire campaign. While that is an indictment of their attacking output, in the context of their overall struggles in front of goal, he has actually been fairly productive.

  2. A bloated squad, but others will leave

    A bloated squad, but others will leave

    One significant argument against keeping Felix is the fact that the Chelsea squad is in dire need of trimming down, and given that he isn't even a permanent employee, he would be easy to cut loose.

    However, in the attacking ranks alone there are plenty of other names that should be coming under more scrutiny than Felix's; Kai Havertz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Sterling have all underperformed to a greater extent across the season, and the majority of them don't match the age profile that co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali want for the squad.

    If at least three of them leave as expected, then there will be sufficient space in the squad for Felix, whose versatility should be considered a significant asset. With a new striker, Christopher Nkunku's expected arrival and existing talents Mykhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke, Chelsea would possess a formidable attack with plenty of strength in depth. All that is required is someone to make it gel...

  3. The Poch effect

    The Poch effect

    Having escaped the clutches of Diego Simeone's defensive tactics in Madrid only to find a muddled mess at Chelsea, Felix must be relishing the prospect of working under a highly-regarded manager whose philosophy is based around an attacking, front-footed style of play.

    Mauricio Pochettino is set to be appointed as Chelsea's permanent head coach following an exhaustive process, and in theory he should be the ideal candidate to get the very best out of Felix; he puts an emphasis on high-intensity attacking football, knows the league, there is no language barrier and he has a proven track record of improving young players.

    Felix has stated publicly in the past that he is happy at Chelsea, and although that feeling may have faded somewhat since Lampard's return and his subsequent lack of minutes, he will surely be licking his lips at the prospect of playing under an astute man-manager with an attacking philosophy.

  4. Felix wants to be there

    Felix wants to be there

    Not long before Chelsea's downturn in form in March, Felix spoke in glowing terms about the club and went as far as to say he was loving life at Stamford Bridge. “The club is so big is amazing, everyone behind the club is so good so I am happy to be here," he said. "I think I needed it (the loan). When I left Atletico, I thought it was good for me and for them. So I think it was the perfect deal to try something different. I always tried to do my best and sometimes it didn’t work. So I had to change to see if things go different. I think this loan is important for me and I am very happy to play here.

    “It’s a different kind of football, the league is different. The way the teams play in La Liga or Premier League is totally different. Chelsea is a team that likes to attack, has the ball, dominate the game. So that is the game I like to play. I feel very free to play here. I love it.”

    Granted, that stance may have changed in the weeks since, but the fact that Felix has so clearly stated that he actually wants to be at Chelsea should not be taken for granted. One of the contributing factors to their current malaise is undoubtedly the burden of players who have no intention of being at the club beyond the summer, and their output on the pitch reflects that. Felix doesn't seem to be one of them.

  5. Little chance of permanent move

    Little chance of permanent move

    Chelsea have justifiably baulked at Atletico's €100m (£87m/$110m) asking price for a player who has flattered to deceive at the Wanda Metropolitano, with the Spanish club trying desperately to recoup the massive fee they paid Benfica in 2019.

    Atleti's stance on that valuation is unwavering, which renders a permanent transfer to Stamford Bridge nigh on impossible given the Blues' need to trim the wage bill and meet Financial Fair Play regulations. Indeed, their lofty demands will surely price him out of a permenant transfer almost anywhere else, with his form certainly not warranting a nine-figure fee.

    The latest reports suggest Chelsea are exploring ways to bring down Atletico's asking price by offering players in part-exchange - namely Aubameyang and Marc Cucurella. This is a logical approach if it helps to shed some of those top earners who are surplus to requirements, but an exit for Cucurella after just one season seems premature.

  6. The only option is the best option
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    The only option is the best option

    A loan, then, is perhaps the only way to turn if Chelsea want to retain the Portuguese's services beyond this summer. His time in west London so far suggests the best is yet to come, and it would be remiss to curtail a potential success story.

    If they are unable to sell him, it has been reported that Atletico are open to another loan - this time at a cost of around £16m ($20m). Should Pochettino be able to extract the 23-year-old's very best form on a consistent basis next season then Chelsea will look back at that as a very astute piece of business, and they will likely have priority should they wish to make his stay permanent.

    Should things go awry, then this is a relatively low-cost, low-risk way to avoid becoming lumbered with another underperforming player on a long contract and enormous wages. That is something Chelsea's decision-makers should have at the forefront of their minds following the lavish spending of the past two transfer windows.