London – Michy Batshuayi has admitted frustration at his peripheral role at Chelsea but believes the experience of his first season in English football will benefit his career in the future.
The Belgium international moved to Stamford Bridge last summer from Marseille for £33m after rejecting offers from West Ham and Crystal Palace but only made his full Premier League debut in Monday night’s victory over Watford, having been restricted to substitute appearances by the manager, Antonio Conte.
Another goal in the 4-3 victory after Batshuayi’s heroics in sealing the title for Chelsea against West Brom at the Hawthorns on Friday meant the 23-year-old has now scored three times in just 212 minutes of action, although he remains philosophical over his lack opportunities.
“There were a lot of frustrations, but this is a big club, with a lot of good players,” said Batshuayi. “I need to understand it a bit too. I’m a bit younger than some of the other guys. I can only keep on working hard. We have a very good squad, with lots of good players. Lovely and humble lads too. Chelsea feels like a big family. When you can work in those conditions, day in, day out. That’s magnificent. Of course there were frustrations because I didn’t play a lot.
“So enjoying myself with the teammates wasn’t always that simple. But I also understood that I had some to work to do. But I’m happy. My team-mates have always been supporting me. They encouraged my to grab my chance and advised me not to let my head down. They are happy for me now. That’s very positive.”
While uncertainty remains over the future of Diego Costa this summer, Batshuayi’s status as part of Conte’s squad next season is also in doubt given his lack of action this season. But the player who scored 17 goals in Ligue 1 last season showed his determination to succeed by turning up at Chelsea’s training ground the day after his winning goal against West Brom for an unscheduled gym session.
“Friday was a magical moment. Like in a dream,” he said. “But I didn’t lose my head either. I kept on working. Because I knew there were some important games to come. I knew I could get my chance against Watford, so from Saturday morning I started focusing on this game. I wanted to perform well.
“I wanted to make the fans and the manager proud of me. I didn’t give up and today the team and I have been rewarded. That’s good for everybody.”
Chelsea had offers to take Batshuayi on loan in January but the striker, who made his breakthrough at Standard Liège in his homeland, was adamant he wanted to fight for his place.
“Of course this is a lesson for me. A period that’s been very hard for me, but I’ve also learned a lot,” said Batshuayi. “I’ve made a lot of progress. As a man, mentally, but also physically. And tactically too. That’s a given with a manager like Antonio Conte. He likes you to work, work, work. Every day.”
The Guardian Sport