Gareth Bale ‘curse’ a cautionary tale to Chelsea over Mykhailo Mudryk’s future

Mykhailo Mudryk applauds the Chelsea fans

Sir Alex Ferguson once famously told Harry Redknapp he should just stop playing Gareth Bale. Maybe there was some mischief in the remark that Redknapp ignored, but the Welshman was on a 24-game winless streak at the start of his Tottenham Hotspur career that had earned him the reputation of being an unlucky charm.

Mauricio Pochettino was never fortunate enough to coach Bale at Spurs, but he will know the story of how the player went from zero to hero at his former club, and why Redknapp was proved right to give Ferguson a swerve on that occasion.

Redknapp said: “Sir Alex Ferguson said to me, ‘I wouldn’t play him, Harry, he’s bad luck’. I said, ‘I think he’s going to be a top player’. I hear rumours I was going to loan him out – never in a million years was I going to loan Gareth Bale out.”

Ferguson had been one of the managers queuing up to sign Bale before he moved from Southampton to Tottenham in a deal worth up to £10 million in 2007 and there was always a feeling that too many good judges had seen his talent for them all to be wrong during that difficult start to life in London.

Which brings us on to Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk, the forward backed by his former manager Roberto De Zerbi to win the Ballon d’Or, a player who Brentford scouts rate among the most talented they have ever followed and the man Mikel Arteta was desperate to sign for Arsenal in January last year.

Clubs make mistakes all the time and players fail to realise their potential for a myriad of reasons, but could De Zerbi, Arteta, Brentford’s boffins, not to mention Chelsea, all have been so horribly off the mark on Mudryk? It seems just as unlikely as Ferguson’s claim that Bale was “bad luck”.

Gareth Bale challenges Arsenal's Aleksandr Hleb
Gareth Bale (centre) went on a 24-game winless streak at the start of his Spurs career - Getty Images/Ryan Pierse

Bale needed time and a change of position to super-charge his Spurs career and Mudryk benefitted from something new on Wednesday night, just a few days after being berated by team-mate Axel Disasi for failing to stop Virgil van Dijk heading the winning goal in the Carabao Cup final.

While Disasi was pretty terrible again against Leeds United at Stamford Bridge, Mudryk enjoyed starting in the No 10 position for the first time, scoring a well-taken goal and making a point with his celebration in front of the travelling supporters who had been hounding him.

Explaining why he had looked down at an imaginary watch on his wrist, Mudryk said: “Human clock is always in a rush, God’s clock is always on time.”

Mykhailo Mudryk celebrates his goal against Leeds by pretending to look at a watch
Mudryk celebrated his goal against Leeds by pretending to look at a watch - Getty Images/Jacques Feeney

Chelsea had certainly been in a rush to tell the world they had beaten Arsenal to Mudryk’s signing last January, following co-owner Behdad Eghbali’s dash to Turkey on a private jet with sporting director Paul Winstanley to seal the deal.

Mudryk’s name was bizarrely added to the club’s official Instagram bio before he had officially signed, while the Chelsea X account further teased fans by responding to a Shakhtar Donetsk statement that the club had entered into negotiations with Eghbali with an eyes emoji.

Creating a God complex around Mudryk, a player who had moved from a country at war and an inferior league, was childish and naive, and Chelsea have hopefully learnt lessons from it.

Over a year into his Stamford Bridge career, Chelsea’s biggest dilemma now is how Mudryk will receive enough playing time and patience to properly rebuild his confidence and start to learn the type of tactical discipline required, along with his pace and talent, to hold down a starting spot.

Aged 23, there remain signs of immaturity in Mudryk’s character, as well as his game, which was underlined when he challenged a critic on social media to a one-on-one game this season.

Mykhailo Mudryk challenges a critic on social media to a one-on-one game
Mudryk challenged a critic on social media to a one-on-one game

In his 44 appearances so far for Chelsea, Mudryk has completed 90 minutes just twice and despite Pochettino’s need for a regular goalscorer, there is plenty of congestion in the club’s attacking areas.

Since Mudryk arrived in an £88 million deal, Chelsea have signed Noni Madueke, Cole Palmer, Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson, and already had Raheem Sterling, Conor Gallagher and Carney Chukwuemeka at the club.

That is eight players who can all play on either flank or, apart from Jackson, as a No 10, and there is no guarantee that Mudryk’s goal against Leeds will be enough to earn him a starting spot against Brentford on Saturday.

But just as Redknapp claims to have known that dropping Bale for good or loaning him out would have been shooting himself and Spurs in the foot, there is a sense at Chelsea that they could end up with egg on their faces if Mudryk is allowed to go elsewhere, even temporarily, to develop.

We are yet to see any long-standing evidence that Mudryk can enjoy a renaissance of Bale proportions, but Chelsea might do well to remember how Redknapp was rewarded for ignoring Ferguson.

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