Thomas Tuchel has very much left Saul Niguez’s Chelsea future hanging in the balance.
Speaking ahead of the game against Everton on Sunday, Tuchel gave little indication that the midfielder will be at Stamford Bridge next season.
Saul is edging towards the end of his loan spell with the Blues, one that began last summer after he left Atletico Madrid on deadline day.
All the initial excitement and wonder faded pretty quickly into his tenure.
The 27-year-old’s first Premier League start ended after 45 minutes, with the manager dragging up off at half-time against Aston Villa.
Since that afternoon in South West London, the Spaniard has only played another eight times in the league.
His minutes have been spread out across the various competitions.
Arguably Saul’s best performances arrived in the Carabao Cup, but even then, he didn’t play in either the semi-final second leg or the final.
Not Saul good
Disappointing is probably the best, and kindest word, to describe his spell as a Chelsea player.
One that could well come to an end in June, when the club must decide whether to make him a permanent fixture and return Atletico’s package.
“We will talk about it at the end of the season. At the moment, it is a difficult situation for him personally, but I like that he still gives his input,” admitted Tuchel on Saul’s situation.
“It is like this in team sports that even if it does not make you happy – and I am sure he is not – he is still positive and still pushing, he takes care about the quality in training with the group that doesn’t play so much.
“It means a lot to me and the atmosphere in the dressing room that he stays competitive within the group.
“I don’t have a lot of good news for him when I tell him the starting line-up. He needs to stay involved mentally and physically, that is what he does, although it is not easy.”
Make way for the midfielders
All the talk of new midfielders potentially coming into the camp can’t have eased Saul’s nerves.
Aurelien Tchouameni’s name has been brandished in Chelsea’s direction for some time.
Conor Gallagher is most likely going to reclaim his spot in the senior squad, following a successful loan spell with Crystal Palace.
Then there’s still the likes of N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic to contend with.
If Saul stays for another term, we promise to eat every hat available to us.