Amongst the most surprised parties to see Thomas Tuchel sacked by Chelsea and replaced by Graham Potter will have been Billy Gilmour.
The Scottish midfielder had only left the club days before Tuchel’s departure and his determination to leave permanently this time was largely down to the lack of trust he received.
The 21-year-old never let Chelsea down when playing but was made to pay for a costly loan spell at Norwich, one which didn’t elevate his position in the Blues’ squad and failed to impress Tuchel enough to be given a serious shot.
Gilmour was taken on pre-season tour to America with the club but was quickly moved to a development camp whereas senior players such as Ross Barkley and Michy Batshuayi were afforded more time under Tuchel’s eyes. After this he always looked likely to move on from Chelsea.
Days before the deadline the perfect transfer arose and Gilmour joined Brighton and Graham Potter for a tiny £9million fee, in all senses it was a bargain for the Seagulls.
They got an extremely talented youngster with international experience, a collection of world-class performances and he was going into a team on the rise with one of the best managers in the league.
Since then Gilmour has been given a Premier League debut under Potter and also seen a new manager, Roberto De Zerbi, come through the door.
As Potter now looks to get Chelsea’s ageing and injury prone midfield working himself, the club could regret the business over the summer.
It was Gilmour himself that pushed for a permanent move, not wanting to become one of the loan army at Chelsea as he looks to settle down and push on, but there may be a small touch of regret after the unforeseen circumstances. That’s how former Celtic and Scotland attacker Simon Donnelly sees it. He said,
“I feel bad for Gilmour. I remember the game he had for Chelsea against Liverpool, and I thought ‘this kid is playing with a cigar’, he knew exactly what he was doing and played a lot older than he was.
“He has performed brilliantly at his time with Scotland , he was superb against England at Wembley. The move to Norwich didn’t really work, now his move to Brighton so he can play under Potter but he goes the other way, I do feel bad for him.”
As a 19-year-old Gilmour made his international debut in 2021, one-year after breaking onto the scene with a man of the match performance against Liverpool, he then won the same award later that year against England in Scotland’s 0-0 draw at Euro 2020, his only appearance at the tournament. After a poor season at Norwich, were he was a scapegoat for the relegated Canaries, Gilmour was an unused substitute in Scotland’s latest match, a 3-0 win over Ukraine.
He now has to prove himself under a new manager and Donnelly hopes he can demonstrate his skills:
“Is the philosophy going to change at Brighton, and if so, is there a place for Gilmour there? That’s my only worry.” There’s no worry about Gilmour’s ability and quality, he just needs to find the right team to start performing. “I wish Chelsea held onto him and gave him a chance to break through there. He needs to play, that’s why he wasn’t in the Scotland team, because he hasn’t played enough.”
The irony for Chelsea is that Potter would have loved to work with him no matter which club it was at. Now, with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante out of contract at the end of the season and a midfield overhaul needed, Gilmour’s presence would be greatly appreciated . This has led to links reporting that Potter could go in for Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella.
The 25-year-old has been a target for Liverpool and Tottenham in recent windows after registering 22 assists in the last two seasons. He has started this campaign off well too with two goals and two assists in seven matches for Simone Inzaghi. With a cost of £53million according to CalcioMercatoWeb , Barella would not come cheap and would highlight a £44million loss with Gilmour factored in.
Although the Italian international is more experienced, it is a piece of business that may well reflect badly if it was to come off, even though Tottenham boss Antonio Conte has previously said that Barella offers more than Jorginho.
“If we compare him to Verratti or Jorginho, the two of them are good at playing with the ball between their feet, but they don’t have the same energy as Barella,” the former Inter manager said. “I think Italy’s midfield with the three of them is complete. Barella is a player who only two years ago played for Cagliari, in a mid-level team. In the last two seasons at Inter he has improved a lot.”