Marcelo Bielsa has revealed that Lewis Baker made an early exit from his loan at Leeds United despite being told that he could be part of the club’s plans for next season.
Bielsa said he had spoken to Baker about the possibility of him staying with Leeds this summer, potentially offering him Premier League football next term, before the 23-year-old walked out of Elland Road and returned to parent club Chelsea.
Chelsea recalled Baker to Stamford Bridge this morning, midway through a year-long loan, after activating a clause allowing them to terminate the deal if Baker failed to make a set number of appearances by January.
Baker could now join Reading until the end of the Championship term, moving onto the Madejski Stadium in search of the regular football he failed to secure under Bielsa.
The midfielder, who took a cut in wage to join United in June, made two league starts for Leeds and played 14 times in total having failed to earn a place in the Bielsa’s preferred line-up.
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His ineffectual form and his lack of game time led Chelsea to terminate their deal with United without warning but Bielsa insisted he was disappointed by Baker’s departure and said he had been keen to keep the former England Under-21 international beyond this season.
“He was always inside the group, even if it’s true that he hasn't played a lot,” Bielsa said.
“Maybe he felt that we didn't value him at the right level but the only time I talked to him about this subject, not only did I tell him I wanted him to stay with us, I told him that we wanted him to stay for next year.
“He’s obviously taken another decision and he had legitimate expectations but in his last game in the FA Cup he had a good performance and this was the starting point for his development in the team.”
Baker’s final outing for Leeds came during the FA Cup’s third round on Sunday, in a 2-1 defeat to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
The Chelsea youngster had expected to step up his development with United having failed to make anything of a year at Middlesbrough last season but his recall to Stamford Bridge has set him up for the sixth loan of his short career. He is yet to start a single first-team fixture for Chelsea.
“It was something that was in the contract and obviously Chelsea and Baker chose to use it,” Bielsa said. “He has gone back.”
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The loss of Baker will not affect Bielsa’s strongest starting side but Leeds have been consumed by injuries throughout their campaign and Baker would have been in contention for Friday's important league clash with Derby County.
He is the third senior departure from Bielsa’s squad in the space of two months. On-loan goalkeeper Jamal Blackman was forced to head back to Chelsea with a broken leg in November while Samuel Saiz left for Getafe before Christmas after complaining of being unsettled in England.
Asked how he would compensate for the loss of another midfielder, Bielsa said: “First I will see what the possibilities are for the club to bring in players, and what kind of players the club can add to the team.
“Obviously we had Jamal Blackman with us which isn't the case anymore. Saiz and Baker left and we didn't want them to leave. It was not our decision to make them leave. It was their decision.”