Enis Zakaria produced a near-perfect start to dispel suggestions he could be set for a quick return to Juventus.
The loanee finally made his first appearance for Chelsea in the 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League Group E final game.
The Blues had already progressed to the last 16 but the midfielder tried his luck in a strong line-up at Stamford Bridge to show what Graham Potter has been missing by not using him this season.
His 30th-minute whipped finish at the edge of Zagreb’s penalty area ultimately helped his side earn three points and a victory to lift their spirits after a dismal loss to Brighton at the weekend.
However, he offered much more than his goal in difficult circumstances, after becoming an oddity due to his non-selection.
Most predicted a rocky start like that of former loan midfielder Saul Niguez, but the Switzerland international shrugged off the noise to dominate in west London.
His first moments on the ball came after a comeback from Kalidou Koulibaly put him under pressure in his own half. Still, his touch and turn saved the day with the players around him.
His great use of possession was evident throughout, completing 98% of his passes despite not playing a competitive game in over three months. He often ran through midfield, beating players in duels and winning three fouls.
Zakaria’s defensive actions were huge, earning possession seven times. After scoring with his only shot, he was sent off in the 71st minute with a suspicious kick as he walked down the tunnel.
It didn’t look serious, though, and we’ll probably see the lanky defensive midfielder soon.
The conversation will rightly remain more around its good display and standard sports understands that Zakaria will stay at the club until the end of the season.
That’s because his debut means he can’t be loaned out to another club, with Juventus also unwilling to call him up.
The debate will now turn to whether Chelsea will trigger their £25million option to buy, which they accepted with the season-long loan.
It was heartwarming to see Zakaria change the conversation around him after Potter praised his positive influence behind the scenes despite his lack of minutes.
Zakaria took a chance and no one would blame him for another appearance in a bigger game, with matches against Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle to come ahead of the World Cup.