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Chelsea's longest-serving player, Matej Delac, leaves with no appearances and no regrets

3:00 AM EDT 4/5/18
Matej Delac
The Blues have allowed a player to move on who spent almost his entire eight-year stint on the books at Stamford Bridge away from the club on loan

Matej Delac remains positive about his eight-year spell as part of Chelsea's loan army after leaving on a free transfer to join AC Horsens in the Danish Superliga.

The 25-year-old joined Chelsea in 2010, with the Blues having signed the then 17-year-old goalkeeper from Inter Zapresic, where he had already been called up to Croatia's squad as third-choice goalkeeper. 

However, he could not break through at Stamford Bridge and work permit issues contributed to him going out on loan to eight different clubs, in eight different countries.

Delac admits that special interest has been shown in him due to his record as the longest-serving player in west London, and has revealed how he said his goodbyes after leaving the WhatsApp group for Chelsea loanees. 

"It is very interesting to write and read about it [my career]," Delac laughs as he begins his conversation with Goal upon signing for Horsens. "Maybe it will be strange to not come back to Chelsea in the summer for pre-season, in between loans. In eight years, I think I had seven pre-seasons with the club.

"Just one where I was already out because I went on loan early. It will be a little bit strange, but it was the life I had. It was a good eight years, you can always say that things could have gone better or worse, but I will always say that I am happy with these eight years. 

"Yes, I said goodbye to the guys in the loan WhatsApp group and they said 'good luck'. That’s it! This is a great opportunity for me after my time at Chelsea. It was not an easy time, as I've not played for the past year.

"I had offers but I decided not to accept them because they were either not good for my career or my family. We have a baby now, so I also wanted to go to a good country with a good league.

"In Denmark, we have done it. Maybe some will think it might be a problem that I didn’t play for one year. However, I know that the manager and the goalkeeping coach believe in me and so I will have really big help from them."

Delac will have to wait until July 1, 2018 for his contract at Horsens to start and technically remains tied to Chelsea until the summer. 

He was once considered a wonderkid after breaking the record for the youngest Croatian player to ever be called up to the national team, with Slaven Bilic bringing him in for 2010 World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and England. 

Petr Cech has been credited as one of his biggest influences, with the Arsenal keeper even helping to arrange a loan move to Dynamo Ceske Budejovice once another potential switch had fallen through. 

Delac added: "Petr really helped me a lot, especially the first two years when I arrived. Everything was new to me and it was not easy to adapt to English football when you come from a lesser league like in Croatia. So he helped me with advice and everything.

"He even found me a loan club in Czech Republic. It was he who found me the club. He helped me a lot. I am still in contact with him. He is a very important guy in my career. I worked most with Christophe Lollichon, he is the French goalkeeping coach who came with Petr Cech and I worked with him for eight years.

"He helped bring me into Chelsea so he was also one of the other most important people in my career. Nemanja [Matic], I played with him on loan in Vitesse. Nemanja helped me a lot in my first year outside of Croatia. Uros Matic [Nemanja's brother at Copenhagen] has text me to say welcome to Denmark, I look forward to playing him.

"All the people working on the loan system are following every player closely and they also helped me. They are analysing and giving us feedback on the matches. They come to visit you at the club. Some people say, you are just going to Chelsea to be on loan, but to be part of Chelsea was a big thing.

"We are not all so perfect that we can play for Chelsea immediately, just 23 players are registered and everyone else is looking for his bit of luck. I think when Chelsea call you, it is difficult to say no. Chelsea have a really good plan for everyone, but it is not easy to come into the first team.

"This is the highest level of football so I think that they are doing really well with their loan system. It is getting better and better. Last season, we even had a pre-season with the loan group, we had friendly games so the players were ready to go away to somewhere else and play. 

"Jamal Blackman, Mario Pasalic, Stipe Perica, and Milan Lalkovic. I made a lot of friends in my time at Chelsea."

Delac won the Bosnian league and cup while on loan at Sarajevo. He also won the Serbian cup at FK Vojvodina in 2014. 

He has now moved to a side who are aiming for a top six spot and a place in Europe. He comes in to replace Jesse Joronen, who has joined Horsens' rivals FC Copenhagen, after previously playing for Fulham.  

However, Delac is hoping that his work permit issues in the United Kingdom can one day be resolved as he still loves the English game. 

He said: "My main ambition in my professional career was to come to England. Before Chelsea came along, I had already had some offers. England was my dream so I am hoping that Croatia will finally get these work permits and that I can come back to England, this is my dream.

"Even if I am not with Chelsea anymore, I will not stop dreaming about it [playing in English football]. I will now concentrate on Horsens, show myself, play and then you never know. Your football career can change very quickly."

Meanwhile, just as Delac was hopeful of breaking into the squad of the Premier League champions, there are 35 other loanees vying for a spot next season. Delac believes that Sheffield United's Jamal Blackman should soon be considered as an option for the senior squad. 

He added: "Jamal Blackman is doing very, very well in Sheffield United this season. Maybe it won't be this year [that he debuts] but Chelsea extended his contract so they believe him. He is an English guy and he has all the things that he needs. You never know, maybe one year more on loan at a better club and he will be ready for the first team.

"For a goalkeeper, it is different and only one can play. To be part of the team, to be number two, he can do it. He has all he needs to play."

Fulham loanee Tomas Kalas could now take on the mantle as Chelsea's longest-serving player, having also joined in 2010. Blackman, Todd Kane and a host of other academy products were at the club earlier, but they had yet to make their professional debuts.