Man City’s loss very much looks to be Chelsea’s gain as Cole Palmer makes an instant impact following £40m switch… versatile and intelligent star will have few regrets as he faces his old club for the first time
- Palmer left Man City for Chelsea in pursuit of more game time over the summer
- The 21-year-old has quickly become an important player to Mauricio Pochettino
- Why we should get excited about Cole Palmer – Listen here to It’s All Coming Up
Cole Palmer used to be given metaphorical gold stars when he began training with Pep Guardiola.
He’d always do something described as ‘special’ in those sessions. Shift onto the left peg, swish the top right-hand corner. Classic Palmer. Players and staff stopped with the surprise after a while.
The only surprise is that Palmer isn’t still at Manchester City and thriving. He wants to go back some point soon to say thank you to academy staff for the years of hard work put into his development because he never got the chance to bid farewell.
In fact, he was briefly paralysed in the driving seat of his car on what he suspected would be his last day but with the Chelsea move not yet 100 per cent confirmed.
As it was, he boarded an early train down to London Euston the next morning. And that was that. Football moves on, both City and the player considerably richer.
Cole Palmer celebrates after netting for Chelsea in Monday night’s 4-1 win over Tottenham
The youngster fired his penalty in off the post to equalise for the Blues against Spurs
Manchester City’s loss over Palmer is certainly looking like Chelsea’s gain after his £40m move
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Chelsea, too, it turns out. Even if everybody with knowledge of the 21-year-old’s journey knew he would succeed at Stamford Bridge, the wider watching public have been awoken to his talent. He’s somebody who will undoubtedly play for England if he carries on in this vein.
A gamble, some said. Mauricio Pochettino’s squad is too large as it is. He won’t play enough minutes, which was exactly the reason for reluctantly asking for a move away from City, who he faces for the first time on Sunday.
But Palmer didn’t go in blind; he studied the team, did his research. He saw very few who he felt were streets ahead and reasoned that the numbers in his area of the pitch weren’t quite as bloated.
He knew he would impact Chelsea almost immediately. Raheem Sterling thought so too. ‘It’s a lot more difficult at City, so when I went to Chelsea I thought I could break into the team,’ Palmer said last month, rather honestly.
There was plenty of time to weigh up the option. Chelsea had been in for some time, keeping their intentions quiet internally.
Their interest earlier in the summer window was not taken overly seriously yet when they came roaring in for the England Under-21 vice-captain, he was ready. ‘He’s just a bit special in terms of his self-belief,’ one friend said.
What the Premier League has witnessed over the past few weeks is a free Palmer, confident. He played an entire season with City’s Under 18s as a false nine, so is happy in central areas, and is devastating from the right.
Palmer felt he needed to leave City in order to play more regularly amid intense competition
He signed off by helping City lift the UEFA Super Cup in August after they defeated Sevilla
Palmer scored City’s goal in the Super Cup in Athens, before they prevailed in a shoot-out
Over the last six months, he’s played five different positions – even as a deep midfielder for the Under 21s at the Euros.
The issue for him last season was too much time spent on the left, where his lack of raw pace hindered him.
Palmer prefers to let the ball do the running. And his brain is going 100mph, even if he can appear horizontal.
On Monday night, that barmy night in north London, Palmer was the only Chelsea player capable of breaking Tottenham’s suicide line.
His weight of pass, his timing and ingenuity set him apart. He looked like an intelligent City star in a Chelsea team. Which he is.
He’s learnt that. He’s never relied on his physical attributes so, even as an academy player with obvious ability, had to get clever.
City held him back in the Under 18s when his peers – most of whom weren’t as technically gifted – were pushed up to the development squad. ‘He had no body,’ one source said.
Despite some worries over competition for places at Chelsea, Palmer has quickly become a favourite of manager Mauricio Pochettino
His versatility in midfield and wide attacking areas has meant Palmer has made a quick impact
Ex-academy director Jason Wilcox takes the credit for that plan of action. Wilcox actually had to convince others at the club that he was worthy of a scholarship at 16.
They signed Ben Knight for big money from Ipswich Town and he was picked ahead of Palmer. Knight spent last year at Crewe Alexandra on loan.
With Palmer though, there has always been unwavering confidence. He was not accepting his lot at City, as many before him have. Parents Jermaine and Marie expected him to flourish; no doubt in their mind.
The biggest challenge has been unrooting. He’s never spent more than a couple of weeks away from the north-west before. He’s never done his own washing. Never cooked.
It’s not an easy move for someone who looks and sounds as Mancunian as they come. There’s no nipping to his favourite Lebanese café near Stockport, no hiring a court at the local Powerleague with his mates.
Palmer celebrates one of Nicolas Jackson’s goals as Chelsea beat Tottenham earlier this week
Chelsea will enter Sunday’s City clash on a high but know they face their toughest test yet
One of them, Rico Lewis, is relishing the reunion. ‘I speak to Cole all the time,’ Lewis said this week. ‘I became massive friends with him last year. We hadn’t spoken that much before then because he was a couple of years above me.
‘Cole is someone who I didn’t expect to be good friends with. Now we are, which is really nice.’
He grows on you, Palmer, and Chelsea are finding that already.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
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