Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah saw their Chelsea careers cut short due to a ‘personality clash’ with then-boss Jose Mourinho, former head of their loan department Eddie Newton reveals.
De Bruyne, now one of the best playmakers in the world at Manchester City, and Salah, established as one of Liverpool’s greatest ever players, are two of the high-profile casualties from Chelsea’s huge loan scheme.
Both slipped through the net of the first team and were eventually sold off before maximising their ability elsewhere.
Kevin De Bruyne’s (right) Chelsea future came down to a ‘personality clash’ with Jose Mourinho
Former head of the loan department Eddie Newton (right) says the same issue hurt Mo Salah
For Newton, who helped create the department that monitors the progress of the club’s young players out on loan, the situations of De Bruyne and Salah did not come down to talent.
‘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.’
Salah made the move to south-west London following an impressive two years in Switzerland with Basel for a fee reported to be near £11million.
Prior to being shipped out on loan to Fiorentina in Italy – having made just three appearances in the Premier League – Mourinho publicly criticised the Egyptian following a League Cup game against Shrewsbury Town.
De Bruyne (left) and Salah (right) have since gone on to become world class talents in England
Salah was among a number of changes with fringe players given the chance to impress but he struggled, as did many, in a 2-1 win and Mourinho said his next selection was ‘easy’.
From there he never worked his way back in as he went to Fiorentina, thrived, before going on to be loaned to Roma before making that move permanent.
De Bruyne joined two years prior to Salah following a breakthrough start to his career back in his native Belgium with Genk.
Just 20 at the time, De Bruyne finished the 2011-12 season with Genk before being immediately loaned to Werder Bremen in Germany for the 2012-13 season.
He impressed in Germany and was told he would be in Mourinho’s plans on his return but it did not go smoothly on his return.
Explaining what happened to the Players’ Tribune in 2019, De Bruyne said: ‘Mourinho texted me, ‘You are staying. I want you to be part of this team’. So I thought, O.K., great. I’m in his plans.
‘Jose called me into his office in December, and it was probably the second big life-changing moment for me. He had some papers in front of him, and he said, ‘One assist. Zero goals. Ten recoveries.’ It took me a minute to understand what he was doing.
Mourinho’s (middle) personality made it difficult for players who had the talent, says Newton
‘Then he started reading the stats of the other attacking forwards — Willian, Oscar, Mata, Schürrle. And it’s like – five goals, 10 assists, whatever.
‘Jose was just kind of waiting for me to say something, and finally I said, “But… some of these guys have played 15, 20 games. I’ve only played three. So it’s going to be different, no?”‘
He was sold to Wolfsburg and within a year he was back in the Premier League with Manchester City where he has established himself as a Ballon d’Or contender, leading to fierce criticism of Mourinho ever since.
Defending the situation this summer, Mourinho told talkSPORT: ‘He impressed me so much I made the decision I don’t want this kid to go on loan, I want him to stay, and in our first match of the Premier League season he started against Hull City.
‘In the second match we got to Old Trafford and after this he come to me and said, ‘I want to play every match, I want to play every minute’. He put a lot of pressure on that.
‘He wanted to leave, he wanted to go to Germany where he was previously on loan and so happy, and his decision was to go. He put big pressure on that and it worked very well for him.’
For Newton it ‘wasn’t going to work’ because the manager and player had two different approaches.
While De Bruyne (left) was ready, Newton says Romelu Lukaku (right) wasn’t ready to be No 9
‘I think they were more than good enough,’ Newton added, ‘but it was the manager who didn’t see eye-to-eye with them, so it wasn’t going to work.’
Romelu Lukaku, who returned to Stamford Bridge this summer for £98m, was another who was passed on as a young player.
But in this instance Newton feels the Belgian wasn’t ready to establish himself as Chelsea’s No 9 at that point in his career.
‘For Lukaku, he wasn’t ready at the time, and I don’t care what anyone says,’ Newton said.
‘He just wasn’t ready to be the main No 9 up front and carry that platform like Didier [Drogba]. 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.’