Today, Chelsea confirmed the loan of one of my favorite prospects over recent years. Tomas Kalas signed with Chelsea around the same time of the conclusion of the 2010 World Cup and I genuinely knew nothing about him. He hadn’t arrived at Chelsea until the second half of the 2010-11 season and spent the rest of that season in the reserves. It wasn’t until the the summer of 2011 when Kalas received his first loan. He was one of many Chelsea prospects to be loaned to our friends at Vitesse in the Netherlands.
Around that time, I was watching a lot of Dutch football. As an American, I watched nearly every AZ Alkmaar game keeping tabs on Jozy Altidore. Subsequently, I watched a lot of Vitesse games and I was very impressed Kalas. He worked his way into their starting lineup rather quickly (wish I could say the same about Ulises Davila). All accounts I read during that time period usually spoke highly of him so that was something to look forward to. It appeared that we had a good central defender for the future.
Before the 2012-13 season started, Chelsea announced that Kalas would go back to Vitesse on loan and I was really excited. It was nice to know that he would continue to get a substantial amount of playing time at such a young age. What had surprised me at first was seeing Kalas used more at the right back position instead of his natural center back. But once again, he seemed to excel from what I watched and read. It was really nice to see versatility in him because Chelsea could utilize him in two different positions.
At the start of the 2013-14 season, Mourinho announced that Kalas would actually stay with the first team and fight for playing time. I thought this was great because a Chelsea manager finally had enough faith in Kalas to be a first team member at such a young age. But before I could get too excited, he got injured and was out for a while. That really put a damper on my day but I could still find solace in that he would stick around in the first team.
Fast forward to October and Tomas Kalas was named on the bench in the Capital One Cup tie against Arsenal. Not only was he on the bench, he made his debut coming very late on for Juan Mata (who had just scored his last goal for the club *tear drop*). Although it was brief, I was just happy to finally see him play in a Chelsea shirt. But then things took a bad turn for fans of the young Czech. He received no more playing time for a while and in the January window, Chelsea announced the signing of Kurt Zouma. I read up on Zouma and his primary position was center back with his secondary being right back. I’m thinking “Oh no. This is bad for ol’ Tommy.” Chelsea basically signed another Tomas Kalas who seemingly looked better and a year younger. And with getting no playing time, I thought another loan would ensue.
To me surprise, Kalas stayed and still received no playing time. I only expected as much for a young defender but I still had hoped for something more. He got more pity minutes against Galatasary (Drogba’s return to the Bridge), replacing Willian in stoppage time. I just accepted the fact that this was how the season will go for him. But then, the unthinkable happened.
I remember waking up at 9 a.m. to watch Chelsea vs Liverpool and the lineup was completed changed to what Chelsea was accustomed to all season. The biggest surprise was that Tomas Kalas was actually STARTING against title contenders Liverpool. I was thinking this is a bad time to give him substantial minutes because I didn’t think he was ready. But 90 minutes, 2 goals, and the infamous Gerrard slip later I was very impressed with Kalas’s performance. He had Luis Suarez, the Premier League top scorer, in his pocket. He looked like he’s been a regular in the lineup for quite some time. He also got another 90 against Cardiff in the last game of the season. Good for him getting minutes late in the season.
Summer comes. Kalas is the first player to get shipped out on loan which quickly squashes any hope of him sticking around for this current season. He gets loaned out to FC Koln in Germany and at first I’m thinking it’s a step in the right direction. The Bundesliga is a fantastic league and it would be great for Kalas to play against top talent. After two great loans with Vitesse and keeping Suarez in his pocket for 90 minutes, I thought it was a matter of time until he becomes a Koln regular in the defense. Boy was I wrong.
Kalas failed to make a single appearance for them in half a season. I don’t know why considering Koln weren’t far from relegation. It was fairly disappointing to say the least and, rightfully, Chelsea recalled him from his loan. Now he’s going to be at Middlesbrough where he shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting more playing time. He’s also surrounded by familiar faces in my Nigerian compatriot* Kenneth Omeruo and the ever present Patrick Bamford. And he could do a lot worse than playing in the Championship.
*I’m Nigerian-American. I root for both countries.
With Kurt Zouma playing well whenever he gets a chance, I don’t see Tomas Kalas being in Chelsea’s immediate plans for the future but as a fan of his since he signed, I hope this loan revives his career after sitting on a German bench for half a season. Even if he doesn’t make it at Chelsea, I just hope he makes it somewhere nice. He currently has one cap to his name for the Czech national team and I hope he adds to it soon.