It’s now or never for the Belgium striker as the Blues’ transfer ban gives him an unexpected opportunity to kickstart his career at Stamford Bridge
Roars of delight echoed around the away end at the Hawthorns as Michy Batshuayi’s late winner secured the Premier League title for Chelsea in 2016-17.
However, the rest of his Blues career hasn’t followed the same fairy-tale script, with the 25-year-old now finding himself third in the pecking order of strikers at Stamford Bridge – behind Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud under new boss Frank Lampard.
Batshuayi can be a clinical finisher – as illustrated by his record of Premier League goal every 47 minutes during the 2017 title win – but he has never established himself as the main man in west London, having previously been forced to play second fiddle to the likes of Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.
But his goalscoring gift has been offset by an inability to carry out tactical instructions and hold the round ball up for his team.
After spells of varying success at Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Crystal Palace, this season feels like it might be the Belgium international’s final chance to secure a first-team spot, with his contract expiring in June 2021.
The £33 million (€40m) signing from Marseille has been trying to convince Lampard that he has been more than a bench-warmer, which was his status during Antonio Conte’s final season in charge, while he wasn’t even wanted in the squad by Maurizio Sarri.
Batshuayi will be begging for a Champions League start against former loan club Valencia on Tuesday, in order to exact some revenge on the Liga club he feels treated him poorly – and send a reminder of his talents to his current bosses.
His coach at Valencia, Marcelino, was surprisingly sacked during the international break, leaving Batshuayi unable to prove a point to the Spaniard, who embarrassingly hauled him off at half-time against Sporting Gijon last season.
“We need signings up front. In some cases, our patience has run out,” Marcelino told reporters in January last season.
He stopped just short of name-checking Batshuayi but it came as no surprise that his loan spell at Mestalla ended shortly after Marcelino’s outburst.
Batshuayi subsequently enjoyed a positive six-month spell at Crystal Palace but he has been now back at Chelsea struggling for game time, having seen just 19 minutes of Premier League action so far this season.
It could have all been so different for the Belgian had Chelsea not refused to sell him for any less than £50m (€55m/$61m) to Dortmund last year. Batshuayi had scored nine goals in 14 appearances for the Bundesliga club but they were unwilling to meet the asking price.
Instead, it will be Paco Alcacer leading the Dortmund attack against Barcelona on Tuesday night, while Batshuayi has been likely to be on the Chelsea bench at Mestalla.
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Everton expressed an interest in signing the former Marseille man during the summer but they too were put off by the Blues’ valuation of Batshuayi, even though it has now fallen to €40m (£35m/$44m).
Eventually, Italian striker Moise Kean became the new striker on Merseyside, leaving Batshuayi stuck at Stamford Bridge at least until the transfer window opens in January.
So, ‘the Batsman’, as some call him, has one last chance to emerge from the shadows and prove that he can still be the hero he was for Chelsea that day at the Hawthorns.