When last we spoke meaningfully about Saúl Ñíguez, it was transfer window deadline day, and Atlético Madrid were moving furiously to ship him out in order to fit Antoine Griezmann’s wages under LaLiga’s mandated salary cap.
Atlético did this successfully, as Saúl signed for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea just before the deadline. The clubs agreed to an initial loan deal with a sizable purchase option, and the anticipation was Saúl would benefit from the scenery change, performing consistently enough to get a permanent move to London next summer — and deliver more than €35 million into Atleti’s coffers.
Things have not gone according to plan.
Since joining the reigning European champions two months ago, Saúl has played 238 minutes across five appearances in the Champions League, the Premier League, and the Carabao Cup. This is the lowest minutes total any Chelsea outfield player has accrued thus far in 2021/22. He is battling for playing time with Jorginho, N’Golo Kanté, and Mateo Kovačić, and those three guys — all established figures at Stamford Bridge — are winning handily so far.
But according to the Telegraph, Saúl has no plans to return to Madrid at the moment, and the present international break is viewed as a key time for him to adapt to Tuchel’s methods. He is living near friend Kepa Arrizabalaga in London and still harbors hopes of carving out minutes in the Blues’ star-studded midfield.
Marca, dubiously citing known compost heap the Sun, claims Chelsea do not intend to purchase Saúl next summer — and Atlético already know this. The Madrid daily says the 26-year-old is likely to be shipped back to Spain once the season ends, but neither club nor player is preparing for a return engagement at this time.
Saúl coming back would wreak havoc on Atlético’s wage bill — as would Álvaro Morata’s possible return from his own loan spell at Juventus. Diego Simeone does not want the pair, and ideally, Atleti would like to recoup at least €30 million apiece for the Spaniards.