Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez had a loan spell to forget at Stamford Bridge after making just 10 Premier League appearances during the 2021/22 league season
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Saul Niguez has thanked his teammates at Chelsea after his difficult season-long loan spell at Stamford Bridge has come to an end.
The Atletico Madrid midfielder spent last season with the Blues but failed to live up to expectations for Thomas Tuchel’s side, playing only 23 times and making just 10 outings in the Premier League throughout the 2021/22 campaign.
Saul even had to play out of his preferred position for a chunk of his outings but did score once for the club during an FA Cup victory away at Championship side Luton Town. Saul was part of Chelsea’s squad for their FIFA Club World Cup triumph earlier this year, featuring as a substitute in the final win over Brazilian side Palmeiras in February, but ultimately his spell was disappointing.
Saul has posted a message to Chelsea’s fans and his teammates in London following his exit, with Tuchel’s side reportedly not opting to trigger the € 35million (£ 29.9m) buy option in his loan contract.
“Hello blues, I’m writing to take my leave of you,” Saul posted on Instagram. “I would like to tell you how I felt during this adventure. Things did not start well at all. After a long time at home, changing everything was not easy. Little by little things got better.
“Everything in life serves to improve and learn, and that’s what I take from this adventure. I’d like to thank the club for trying to take care of every detail to make me feel at home. I’d also like to give recognition to each worker, thank you. Thank you for making this club much bigger.
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“Thanks to all the fans for supporting me through thick and thin. I will be forever grateful. Thanks to all the staff for making it possible for me to win titles with the blue shirt.But above all, I wanted to thank my teammates. They have been fundamental so that I would not fall apart. They helped me to continue supporting the team and live a calm and positive day to day. Thank you! ”
Saul’s struggles started soon after his move to London. He was replaced at half-time on his Chelsea debut during a 3-0 win over Aston Villa, with Tuchel quite brutally criticizing the midfielder for not being able to cope with the intensity of England’s top flight.
“We could see Saul struggling to adapt to the intensity, instructions, style of play and intensity of the Premier League,” Tuchel told Sky Sports last September. “It was hard to do, I had a feeling he struggled. He made some mistakes, passing mistakes and errors and struggled with the intensity.
“You could see he was fully adapted. It’s completely my responsibility. I thought he can maybe just jump and play for us at that level so I thought it’s maybe better to have Jorginho who has a better connection with Thiago [Silva] to control the game there a bit more. ”
Things did not improve much by Christmas, with Saul’s cameo appearance off the bench against Everton in December drawing further criticism, as Tuchel launched a staunch defense of the Spaniard despite conceding he was “struggling”.
“Was he the first player to struggle in the Premier League? No and he won’t be the last one,” Tuchel stated. “We protect our players and I will protect our players always.” Tuchel was full of praise for Saul later in the campaign, hailing his “professionalism” but it was clear that the move hadn’t panned out as hoped.
Saul is not the only member of last season’s Chelsea squad who will be playing in LaLiga for the 2022/23 season following his return. Center-back Antonio Rudiger has already had a move to Real Madrid confirmed, signing on a free transfer after not renewing his contract at the Stamford Bridge.
Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso have all been linked with summer exits to Barcelona in recent months.