Chelsea’s former loan technical coach Eddie Newton thinks Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne were “more than good enough” to play for Chelsea and didn't do so because of a "clash" with Jose Mourinho.
De Bruyne and Salah both struggled to secure a first-team role at Chelsea during Mourinho's second spell at the club from 2013 to 2015.
De Bruyne left in 2014 and is now shining with Manchester City while Salah joined Roma in 2016 and has developed into one of the best players in the world at Liverpool.
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“For me, I think Salah and De Bruyne wasn’t about talent,” Newton told Goal.
“It was a personality clash [with Jose Mourinho]. I just didn’t think it was working at the time. I think they were more than good enough, but it was the manager who didn’t see eye-to-eye with them, so it wasn’t going to work.”
Romelu Lukaku was in a similar position to De Bruyne and Salah after joining Chelsea as an 18-year-old in 201 as he was unable to get into the first team and had several loan spells before leaving to join Everton.
He returned to Stamford Bridge this summer in a £97m deal following a successful two years with Inter Milan.
Newton worked at Chelsea from 2012 until 2020 and says Lukaku needed to “learn his craft” elsewhere rather than following in Didier Drogba’s footsteps.
"He wasn’t ready at the time, and I don’t care what anyone says. He just wasn’t ready to be the main No 9 up front and carry that platform like Didier. He was always going to be compared to Didier and it wasn’t fair to him at that time. It was different situations for different players.
“He was a great kid with bundles of enthusiasm who wanted to impress. He was sometimes too desperate to impress that it went against him. I think he needed to come out of Chelsea and learn his craft elsewhere, which he did on loan at West Brom. My former team-mate Steve Clarke was looking after him.
"It was well documented and he will say it himself: he had the power and pace, and when he was younger he got away with blowing people away with his physicality, outrunning people in behind and scoring that goal.
"When he got to the top level, he couldn’t do it as much anymore. He hadn’t developed how to play with his back to goal. Every time the ball came to him, a defender would get tight and it would bounce off him. He gave it away a lot and it was frustrating.
Romelu Lukaku celebrates
Image credit: Getty Images
"That’s why at Chelsea it would have been hard for him, because there was an expectation on him to hold up the ball, find the players then get back in the box to finish. That’s what Didier did and it left massive pressure. It was better to go away and develop it at West Brom.
“He got to Manchester United, didn’t take off as he would have hoped, but Antonio Conte had him at Inter. He was a pain for Lukaku and forced him to complete the journey with his back to goal. He worked tirelessly with him until he got his just rewards. It was a major factor on why he didn’t establish himself at the highest level earlier.
"He is now back at Chelsea, more mature and a senior player who can play with his back to goal and score. He is now ready to complete that journey and fair play to him. A lot of hard work went into where he is now."
Chelsea’s loan strategy over the last 15 years has been criticised as they often send a number of players out on loan spells for several years in a row.
However, Newton says there has been positive feedback from players over time.
"We spoke about people not understanding the loan programme at the start, but the players didn’t either. After a season or two, they were coming to me and saying they get it now and appreciate it. The agents and parents' feedback started coming and it was positive. These were their careers that we were helping.
“I know they all wanted to play for Chelsea, but not everyone can. I was just being honest with them and they appreciated that honesty. The club did a lot for these players."
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