In an interview with The Independent, Charly Musonda opened up on the battles he has faced with a career-threatening injury, his certainty of playing for Chelsea again and the challenges of making it to the top.
The former Belgian Under-21 international insisted that he has always wanted to play for the Blues having fallen in love with the club since joining.
Musonda also delved into the struggles he faced growing up and how signing for Chelsea changed his family’s life.
‘Toughest year of my life’
The past year has proved a roller-coaster of emotions for Musonda. The Brussels born showman joined Vitesse Arnhem on loan ahead of the 2018/19 season but suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The Belgian was determined to get his career back on track having fallen out of favour while on loan at Celtic the previous season.
He explained that his recovery was lonely as he was exposed to the potential reality of life without football.
“The last year has been the toughest of my life,” Musonda began. “I’ve suffered a lot this year. Sometimes, it can get very lonely. Every morning I woke up with the same thought: to play. It’s only when it’s taken away that you understand how much you love football. I didn’t realise how much I could miss it.
“I know people will doubt me because, after a year-and-a-half, they don’t know if I’m still the same player, but deep down, I know how good I can be. I want to show the world what I can do and, if I prove I’m still the same Charly Musonda.”
‘I fell in love with Chelsea’
The Belgian winger joined Chelsea at the age of 15 from Anderlecht and quickly became one of the most sought-after prospects in football.
The Blues faced tough competition to get Musonda’s signature against the likes of Barcelona. It was a daunting concept for Musonda that a club like Barcelona wanted to sign him.
He said: “When you come from a small country like Belgium and a club like Barcelona wants to sign you, it was hard for me even to imagine.”
Chelsea offered an emotional element to the deal that would persuade the winger to join the club. The Blues offered to sign his two brothers Tika and Lamisha.
“I fell in love with this [Chelsea] club," Musonda vowed. The deal allowed the Musonda family to move together as they started their new life in South West London.
A great deal of hype and expectation was planted on the shoulders of the youngster to prove himself as a generational talent.
Confident and focused on making it to the top, Musonda climbed the ladder at Cobham Training Ground, winning the UEFA Youth League, Under-21 Premier League and the FA Youth Cup on two occasions.
In the academy, the 22-year-old played alongside the likes of Tammy Abraham, but the pair soon went their own ways. The Belgian was determined to play first-team football and left for Real Betis on a six-month loan in January 2016.
“I had to test myself at that young age to see where I was and what I could become,” he said. “I wasn’t playing at Chelsea and I needed to have the experience. One day you’re training in the reserves, the next you’re on a plane to play in La Liga. It was fantastic.
“I’ve always wanted to stay at Chelsea,” he stressed. “It’s true, Roma were interested but I’ve never once asked the club to leave. All I have ever wanted to be is a Chelsea player.”
Chelsea and Betis chose to extend the loan for the duration of the following 2016/17 season but was cut short in December due to a lack of minutes.
In September 2017 Musonda made his Chelsea debut against Nottingham Forrest in the Carabao Cup, scoring in the process.
A proud moment and memory that he will savour for the rest of his life. A memory that has resulted in a deeper desire to wear blue again.
“I’m 100% confident I can break back into the Chelsea team,” he insisted.
“Maybe it’s me being a bit naive or overconfident or just believing I can do it, but that has been my dream since I was 15 years old and that’s never changed.
“I want to wear the Chelsea shirt one more time.”
‘I owe my family everything’
Musonda averred that his parents always did the best to give him and his brothers the best chance in life amid the difficulties they faced living in a rough area.
“There was a lot of tough times growing up,” he admitted. “My mum and Dad always did the best to give us everything, but it wasn’t easy. It teaches you to be tough, not just about football, but life as well. You learn to take care of yourself.
“The pitches were mostly mud and the grass was very, very long so we learned on the concrete with my Dad.
"It goes one of two ways: you get out and become a professional footballer or you stay there in the streets. I know a lot of kids who had potential but didn’t have someone to tell them what was right and what was wrong. I owe my family everything because without their guidance, especially growing up where we grew up, I would never have gone to a big club.”
Pressures of professional football
He was adamant that pressure is not something that has fazed him and has always wanted eyes on him.
He said: “I don’t think pressure is something that ever fazed me. You bring it on yourself when you play a certain type of way. If I was a more reserved player, or a little bit more nervous, the hype might have affected me a little bit more.
“But if you’re a skilful player and you want to be somebody who expresses yourself, you have to be willing to accept that there’s going to be hype and criticism. I wanted it to be in the situation where eyes were on me.”
A player with flair, raw pace and technical ability often finds themselves in the crossfire of criticism more than others - unfair or warranted.
Musonda certainly falls into that bracket as a showman who can play on the wing or behind the striker.
“When you’re a player who expresses yourself and has that bit of arrogance, criticism goes hand in hand,” he claimed. “People say things like ‘he’s unprofessional’ but that’s football, people are always going to talk. It’s up to me to make things happen.”
One more chance
The 22-year-old is currently on loan at Vitesse as he vows to prove himself at the highest level in hope of one more chance at Chelsea.
“Now I’m at Vitesse, I don’t feel stuck or left behind because I know once I’m playing again, soon everybody will be watching,” he said. “I just want one more chance to play for Chelsea.
“Before my time had always been about progression. There’d never been any setbacks. I’ve changed a lot but that’s normal. I’m a better person now as well as a better player. If I can come back, it will be a testament to my talent, but it will also show the type of person I have become.”