With the return of Gerard Deulofeu back to Barcelona from his season-long loan at Everton at the end of the 2013-14 season, Roberto Martinez was left with a wide-attacking void to fill in his squad, one he moved to fill in August 2014 with acquisition of Christian Atsu on loan from Chelsea.
The Ghanaian international was brought to the Premier League by Jose Mourinho just before the 2013 transfer deadline and, like so many of the West London side's young recruits, he was immediately loaned out to Vitesse Arnhem for the season.
He returned to Chelsea after playing all three games for his country at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil at which point Martinez, who had scouted him extensively, made an approach to bring him to Everton on loan, a move helped by the permanent signing of Romelu Lukaku two weeks earlier – the Blues would not have been able to loan a second player from the same club had Mourinho insisted that Lukaku could only leave on a temporary basis again.
A wide man who offers pace, a desire to take players on and the occasional goal, Atsu promised to be a ready-made replacement for Deulofeu and fit perfectly into the young side that Martinez was skillfully assembling. However, that was not how it really turned out, as the young Chelsea player struggled to make the step up from the Dutch Eredivisie to the faster, more physical Premier League.
Atsu was signed shortly before the start of 2014-15 on a season-long loan from Stamford Bridge but he would go on to make just 8 appearances with the Blues in all competitions.
His attempts to break into the Blues' first team were further hampered by the hamstring injury he suffered in November 2014 and then his month-long involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana during which he was named Player of the Tournament.
That accolade, and the accompanying Goal of the Tournament award he received was not enough to persuade Martinez to give him more opportunities at Goodison Park and the door was effectively closed on Atsu's hopes of regular appearances by the arrival of the more experienced and more consistent Aaron Lennon from Tottenham at the beginning of February 2015.
In comments Martinez made to the Liverpool Echo, he didn't explicitly say that he would not be making an approach to take Atsu back on loan for Everton's next season but the understanding was that the two parties would go their separate ways at the end of the dismally poor 2014-15 season.
“Christian is a very, very talented young man,” Martinez said in his typically over-positive manner of the disappointing winger who did not feature in any Everton side after the disaster in Kyiv. “Adapting to the Premier League will always take a period; sometimes more, sometimes less.
“He has all the attributes and showed it in flashes at Porto, when he played consistently at Vitesse, when he was named Player of the Tournament at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana — Christian is very talented.
“For one reason or another, we haven't been able to give him that continuity that you need. But his attitude is terrific and I hope in the last two games [of the season], I hope he can finish the season strong with us because his playing time hasn't been as big as we expected. But I'm sure the experience will benefit him immensely.”
Despite those fine words of positive praise and optimism from the manager, Atsu did not feature in those last two games of the season, and returned to Chelsea when his loan was up. He would go on loan again to Premier League newcomers, AFC Bournemouth, but did not start a single league game for them before moving on to another loan spell at Malaga.
|Born||Ada Foah, Ghana|
|Date of birth||10 January 1992|
|Joined||13 August, 2014|
|Signed by||Roberto Martinez|
|Contract duration||1 year|
|Loan expired||June 2015|
|Debut (as sub)||v Arsenal (h) , 23 Aug 2014|
|Full debut||v C Palace (h), 21 Sep 2014|
|Previous Clubs||FC Porto
Rio Ave (loan)
Vitesse Arnhem (loan)
|» Wikipedia Entry|
|Season||Squad No.||League Apps (sub)||League Goals||Cup Apps (sub)||Cup Goals||Total Apps (sub)||Total Goals|
|2014-15||19||1 (4)||0||4 (4)||0||5 (8)||0|
|Totals||1 (4)||0||4 (4)||0||5 (8)||0|