Thomas Tuchel has apologised to Conor Gallagher for dashing his dreams of an FA Cup semi-final, but the Chelsea boss says he is merely following the rules when it comes to loan agreements.
The England international midfielder has been starring away from Stamford Bridge at Crystal Palace but will be denied the opportunity to line up for the Eagles at Wembley on Sunday due to the terms of the season-long agreement put in place last summer.
Palace had hoped Chelsea would break from tradition and give a green light for Gallagher to figure in a historic event for the south London side – with Derby previously allowed to field Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount when facing the Blues – but player and club have been left disappointed.
What did Crystal Palace say?
Eagles boss Patrick Vieira has questioned why Chelsea are deciding to block the 22-year-old playmaker, saying: “It’s not the best rule because the only one who will lose is Conor.
“There’s a semi-final, it’s a really exciting game about how you will manage yourself and prepare yourself to play that game, then there’s playing that kind of game and the importance of it.
“It’s an experience the player is missing and I’m disappointed for him. He has played all the games so far and if there’s somebody who deserves to be in the semi-final, it’s him because of his performances, so I’m disappointed he won’t be able to play.”
How have Chelsea responded?
Tuchel said: “I had the chance to speak to Conor, I could also see his frustration. We met some weeks ago, after the national break by coincidence. We ran into each other in a restaurant and we had a chat.
"The subject came up, I apologised because I know how competitive he is and I like him a lot, I know his character very well and was a pleasure to have him here in pre-season.
“This is the way it is. We play to win the game and the rules were clear when we made the loan.
“I can totally understand Patrick Vieira and the disappointment of Conor but these are the rules when we did the loan and we don’t want to suffer from our rules.”
Chelsea are due to lock horns with local rivals Palace at Wembley on Sunday, with the winners going on to face either Liverpool or Manchester City in the final.