MATT BARLOW: Joao Felix’s red card made a disastrous start to a desperate loan spell at Chelsea… but until then he was silky smooth, looking fresh and hungry to be freed from Diego Simeone’s demands
There was an air of desperation about Chelsea’s pursuit of Joao Felix.
As if they signed him because they could ask others for an investment of around £15million in fees and wages for six months’ service from a young player with a reputation for sulking.
‘Not a normal loan,’ said Fulham boss Marco Silva before kick-off in Thursday night’s game, which the Cottagers won 2-1. However, Chelsea stopped operating as a normal club a long time ago.
New Chelsea forward Joao Felix’s red card spells a disastrous start to a desperate loan spell
The Portuguese star was shown his marching orders for a poor tackle on Fulham’s Kenny Tete
The moment of madness from Felix came after he impressed on his debut for the Blues
Nor are they in what for them is a normal situation, embarking on a major change of direction with the people chosen to lead the adventure that is under pressure, weakening in the middle of the table with the fans in turn.
When Felix went straight into Graham Potter’s Fulham side after training just once with his new team since arriving from Atletico Madrid, it seemed like another move made in haste.
Certainly not one made with Chelsea settled and tickled so well.
When he was sent off with less than an hour played, for a lunging, studs-up, desperate-to-impress tackle on Kenny Tete early in the second half, it seemed like a terrible decision to drop a young man who there are points. to prove straight in the heat of a Premier League derby against in-form opponents.
Until then, though, the 23-year-old was silky smooth and sullen. Given the freedom to roam, he winked into spaces left and right and dropped between Fulham’s defensive lines.
Under-pressure Blues boss Graham Potter saw his side lose 2-1 in Thursday’s derby
His exemplary control, balance and pace to get off the mark earned him two yellow cards in the opening minutes. Chelsea supporters were quick to get on board.
The Portugal international dispossessed Tim Ream to create the first chance of the game for teenager Lewis Hall and his name echoed from the Putney End. The home fans were less impressed.
They soon realized that little contact had been made to knock Felix down and were shocked to see referee David Coote blind to what they considered the obvious.
‘What a waste of money,’ they crowed as he volleyed over unaware he was offside and delighted at the red card but overall Felix looked fresh and hungry.
Free from Diego Simeone’s demands and eager to remind Atletico why they paid £114million for him as a teenager from Benfica.
Before that, though he looked fresh and hungry, freed from Diego Simeone’s demands
His pure quality was encapsulated in a first half flash of brilliance. Spinning away from Tosin Adarabioyo by flicking his own feet, he accelerated clear to spark a dangerous counter attack.
‘There’s no doubting his ability,’ said Joe Cole, on BT Sport. ‘I think he thrives on it. He is a good player. He is a technician. He would suit Potter’s broad style.’
It’s all true. They will welcome him to Stamford Bridge if he adds another dimension to their attacking options but the red card means he will miss the next three games – against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Fulham again – through suspension.
He becomes more expensive on a pounds-per-game basis. He also insists to Potter that the squad is stretched by injuries and really can’t buy a break.
For all the interesting early touches it was a disastrous start to a desperate loan spell.