It’s slowly going on two years now that Chelsea’s Oscar project came to a shocking halt, with a £60m transfer to Shanghai SIPG just as he was about to begin the prime years of his career at age 25.
Part of the massively significant summer 2012 spending spree — Hazard, Azpilicueta, Oscar, Christensen, Moses — after victory in Munich changed the course of Chelsea history, Oscar was anointed by Mourinho as the lynchpin of the new Chelsea a year later.
After delivering 2 assists in the 5:0 win over Guizhou Hengfeng last night, Oscar has made 18 assists this season with 5 games remained, breaking the CSL assist record (17) set up by Aleksandar Živković (Shandong Luneng) in 2007. Wu Lei converted 11 Oscar assists this season. pic.twitter.com/ePDqey48JQ
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) October 8, 2018
That idea fizzled out even quicker than Mourinho’s second tenure, but Oscar remained a key part of José’s title win. When Conte arrived, the then 24-year-old’s two-way game was, in theory, going to be a great fit, with the expected switch to a three-man midfield.
Alas, Conte ended up going with a two-man midfield in a 3-4-3, and Oscar found himself falling further down the pecking order. He had just enough oomph to reach 200 career appearances for the club, before taking the money on offer from the Chinese Super League — he remains their record transfer thanks to the league changing its rules soon after, in part precisely because of his transfer.
Recorde de assistências no Campeonato Chinês batido. Feliz demais! Deus é fiel! 🙏⚽🇨🇳 pic.twitter.com/eWoyaUpj6n
— Oscar (@oscar8) October 8, 2018
Oscar’s first year in China wasn’t the best. He started with a goal on his debut, but was later suspended eight matches for inciting a brawl.
They finished second in the league, lost the Cup final, and were eliminated in the semifinals of the AFC Champions League. By the end of the year, rumors of a swift return to Europe were starting to swirl. And while that may still happen — he is still just 27 — Oscar’s second season has been much better.
SIPG are top of the table, holding a four-point lead with five games to go over second place Guangzhou who have won the last seven CSL titles. SIPG may have gotten eliminated already from the Cup and the Champions League, but if they could dethrone Guangzhou, it would be quite an achievement.
And Oscar has been key to that effort, setting a career high in goals with 12 (16 in all competitions) and adding 18 assists, a new Chinese Super League record.
Now, let’s imagine Oscar as the third midfielder in Sarri’s system. Can Ross Barkley step up? Can Kovačić add goals to his game? Oh, the things that could’ve been…