Cologne - If the loan deals involving Christoph Kramer and Thorgan Hazard have shown us anything, it’s that Borussia Mönchengladbach love a project.
Decorated youth player
One has since returned to his boyhood club while the other has penned a permanent deal at Borussia Park, but both are all the better for it. Whichever direction new recruit Andreas Christensen takes in two years' time, the young Dane has quite the journey ahead of him.
Christensen joins Gladbach on a two-year loan deal, having already won the Under-21s Premier League, UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup since leaving Danish giants Brondby IF for parent club Chelsea FC in summer 2012.
He made his senior debut for the Blues in the League Cup win over Shrewsbury Town in October 2014 and also started the surprise FA Cup defeat to Bradford City three months later. The 19-year-old was handed his Premier League debut as a substitute on the final day of 2014/15, before helping Denmark reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Under-21 European Championships in the Czech Republic this past summer.
Competition for places
A ball-playing defender, comfortable at right-back or in the centre of defence, Christensen isn’t the most physical of players, but at 19 he still has plenty of time to add the necessary poundage to his slender frame. If he wants to spend more hours on the pitch than in the weights room at Gladbach, however, he'll have to outmuscle the likes of Julian Korb, Tony Jantschke and Alvaro Dominguez first.
Doing so won't be easy, especially with defending champions FC Bayern München (18) representing the only side to have conceded fewer Bundesliga goals than Gladbach (26) in 2014/15. An automatic place in the UEFA Champions League was the least the Foals deserved, yet without shrewd squad rotation in the months ahead, Borussia head coach Lucien Favre runs the risk of total burnout.
In that respect, Christensen looks like a fine piece of business. He might not be first choice in the big games - at least to start with - but there’s every reason to believe he’ll perform to the desired level when called upon after an energy-zapping week juggling domestic and European commitments for Favre’s preferred starting line-up.
Like Messrs Kramer and Hazard, the two-time Danish international is a low-risk investment with the potential to post sky-high returns. He’ll need time to settle and adapt to the daily rigours of the Bundesliga, and for a while might fly under the radar, but don’t be surprised if he’s knocking on the door of the first XI early next year. Gladbach’s loan signings have a history of being more than just fillers after all.