BRENDAN RODGERS believed he had pulled off a remarkable signing coup for Celtic when he landed Chelsea wonderkid Charly Musonda on an 18-month loan in January 2018.
The gifted Belgian arrived at Parkhead with a massive reputation as the Hoops got in ahead of reported interest from Real Madrid to snatch the 21-year-old attacking midfielder.
International boss Roberto Martinez backed Rodgers’ judgement and insisted: “With his talent, the Celtic fans will see a footballer they can fall in love with.
NOW YOU SEE ME…Charly Musonda in one of his rare Celtic appearances.
“You want to see that arrogance, that raw talent. This is a real treat for Celtic fans. He can be one of the big additions to Scottish football.
“To me, it’s important that this wasn’t a short-term deal. Eighteen months is going to give Charly the time to settle in and to understand Brendan Rodgers and the way he wants to play.”
Despite the avalanche of praise for his country’s hottest prospect, Musonda’s contract in Glasgow was scrapped with a full year still to run to return to the Stamford Bridge club.
The Irishman revealed the temporary spell was cut short because of the form of Callum McGregor.
Musonda made only four starts for the Hoops – plus four substitute appearances – and Rodgers explained: “Charly needs to play week in, week out and, unfortunately, I couldn’t guarantee him that.
WAITING GAME…Charly Musonda on the Celtic subs’ bench.
“There’s no denying his talent, but in the position that’s probably his best, Callum has been playing brilliantly.
“On Monday, I flew to London and had a meeting with Chelsea. We had a look at it and it was best for him to go back and pick up a loan somewhere else.”
Musonda agreed a loan switch to Dutch Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnheim, but hardly figured in the first team and sustained a cruciate ligament injury which decimated his second season in the Netherlands.
Indications last month pointed to the player struggling to be awarded a new deal at Chelsea and his worst fears were confirmed this week when the 25-year-old one-time golden boy was told he had no future at the London club and will be allowed to leave for NOTHING at the end of his contract in June.
STARS IN HIS EYES…Charly Musonda as a 17-year-old emerging talent at Chelsea.
The Brussels-born player revealed he told boss Thomas Tuchel he would play for free in a last-ditch effort to stay with the club he joined as 15-year-old, but has made only seven first-team outings.
An emotional Musonda, opening up about his situation in an interview on The Beautiful Game Podcast, said: “I spoke with the manager and I obviously knew what he thought of me in training.
“I explained to him the same thing, I will play here for free. It’s not to do with the contract, I will literally play for free this year.
“It’s a long season, there’s a lot of games. I’m not even asking to start those games, I was just saying, if I can come on, get 15, 20 minutes here and there.
CROSSROADS…Charly Musonda, at the age of 25, working out in the gym.
“He understood. We had a good chat and he said: ‘Listen, it’s not up to me. The contract talks are something else’.”
“I spoke with Petr Cech (the club’s technical advisor) in August on the phone and after those talks, I knew straight away: ‘Okay, I’m going to leave in August here, there is nothing else I can do’.
“After the phone call, I was literally crying because I’d been there for a while. Even now, it’s going to take some time to get around it.”
Amazingly, Musonda, who represented Belgium from Under-15 to Under-21 level, has never been selected by Martinez for the full international team.
The player once so highly rated by former Celtic gaffer Rodgers – and the cream of Europe’s elite – must be hoping for better luck in 2022.