Chelsea’s loan army is the subject of much criticism.
For many, it’s a symbol of whole modern football has gone wrong, with clubs stockpiling players that are never going to play for them.
Indeed, with 37 players out on loan from Stamford Bridge, it’s inevitable some of them will never see the first team.
But while you would have said players going out on loan from Chelsea would lead to them never returning to play for the Blues, this season Antonio Conte has proved the loan system’s doubters wrong.
Victor Moses, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake have all played parts in Chelsea’s season so far – with Moses in particular a crucial player as the Blues seemingly head to the title.
Before this season, he had spent three loan spells away from Stamford Bridge – at Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham – and his first-team chances looked minimal.
Chalobah had gone on loan to six different clubs – Watford, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Reading and Napoli – and Ake three – Reading, Watford and Bournemouth – before they became part of Conte’s squad.
With the Italian boss willing to give players out on loan a chance, we look at some loan stars who could potentially make their mark next season.
On loan at: Bristol City
Tammy Abraham is the Chelsea youngster that has many fans excited the most.
He has 21 goals in 38 games in all competitions for Bristol City so far this season, and is second to only Dwight Gayle in terms of goals in the Championship this season.
The 19-year-old has a knack of being in the right place at the right time and getting that goal – he has scored a massive 41 per cent of the Robins’ goals this season, and you could argue without him the Robins would be in even more of a relegation dogfight than they are at the moment.
Chelsea are reportedly looking for a striker in the summer, and have been linked to Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata, but why not give Abraham a go?
He has proven himself in the Championship and has goals at England under-21 level too and could be an exciting prospect.
If Michy Batshuayi decides he is not happy sitting on the bench, he would be a more than worthy backup option.
And he could make a big impact too – just look at where Marcus Rashford was this time last year.
On loan at: Vitesse
Lewis Baker is one of a number of Chelsea players to find themselves on loan at Vitesse.
Highly rated at Stamford Bridge, the midfielder made his debut for the Blues more than three years ago, coming on as a substitute for Oscar in an FA Cup third round win over Derby.
The following season Baker became part of the Chelsea first-team squad, but failed to make an appearance.
But he made an impression on Jose Mourinho, who was Blues boss at the time.
The Portuguese manager said he would be to blame if Baker did not become a senior England international under his management.
His first loan spell away from Chelsea came in January 2015, where he spent just over a month at Sheffield Wednesday, making four appearances.
He then spent the rest of the season at MK Dons, scoring three times in 12 appearances, before joining Vitesse at the start of the 2015/16 season.
In his one-and-a-half seasons in the Eredivisie, Baker has 14 league goals in 52 appearances – not bad for a midfielder.
He’s scored some crackers too.
— Heatdex (@heatdex) November 20, 2016
The 21-year-old is comfortable with both feet and has made an impression on the international team, scoring the opening goal in the 2-1 victory over France in the final.
His four goals in the competition gave him the Golden Boot award.
It may be more than three years since his last appearance for Chelsea, but he is impressing away from Stamford Bridge, and if like Moses did, he impresses in pre-season, it would be no surprise to see him stay and have an impact for the Blues.
On loan at: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Andreas Christensen has long been spoken about as the long-term replacement for John Terry.
He hit the headlines back in 2014, when the Daily Mail claimed he was earning £20,000-a-week, something which his father went on to deny.
Sten Christensen isn’t afraid of talking about his son in public, and claimed Chelsea tried to cut short his two-year loan spell at Gladbach.
“Chelsea want Andreas back, and they have wanted that for a long time,” he told Danish newspaper BT.
“But it was an interminable two-year loan, so there was nothing to do.
“They have worked to get him back before the time, but Gladbach would not let him.
“Instead, they would like to buy Andreas.
“They still really want to, but Chelsea won’t get rid of him, and the price would be too high.”
And it’s clear why Chelsea don’t want to sell him, he already has 10 caps, Champions League experience and two years playing in one of Europe’s top leagues – how many 20-year-olds can say that?
The ball-playing centre-back’s impact at Gladbach is clear – he was their player of the season last year.
And with Conte playing three at the back, there is one more space for him to stake his claim, and it would be no surprise if he is a crucial member of the Blues’ squad this time next year.
On loan at: Schalke
Baba Rahman was not a cheap signing at Stamford Bridge.
He arrived in the summer of 2015 from Augsburg for an initial fee of £14millon, that could rise to more than £20million, making 23 appearances in his debut season as a Blue.
In this last season before joining Chelsea, Rahman helped Augsburg qualify for the Europa League and made more successful tackles than any other player in the Bundesliga, as well as attempting the highest number of crosses from the left flank.
He may have struggled a bit at left-back when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, but what’s to say the left wing-back position would not be perfect for him?
Chelsea have been linked with Sead Kolasinac and Faouzi Ghoulam as Conte thinks about bringing in someone to challenge Marcos Alonso for that role in the team.
But a player like Rahman that can defend an attack, the Blues may already have the man to fight with the Spaniard for the left wing-back slot.
He will just have to get fit first though – he is out for the rest of this season with a cruciate knee ligament injury.