Matej Delc
Chelsea's Matej Delac on international duty with Croatia's Under-20 team back in 2011 AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images

Matej Delac looks set to leave Chelsea in the near future with the curious distinction of being the club's long-serving player who has never made a single senior appearance for them in any competition.

The Bosnian-born goalkeeper signed a pre-contract agreement with the defending champions as a 17-year-old during the reign of Carlo Ancelotti after becoming the youngest player ever to feature in the Croatian top-flight for NK Inter Zapresic. He officially joined in September 2010 before being quickly loaned out to unofficial Dutch feeder club Vitesse Arnhem.

Chelsea were subsequently unable to secure a UK work permit for Delac, who claimed during an interview with ESPN in July that a three-month injury sustained after being called up by Slaven Bilic to the senior Croatia squad as a teenager scuppered his chances of satisfying the requirements.

Instead, he was dispatched for further temporary stints with Czech outfit Dynamo Ceske Budejovice, Portugal's Vitoria de Guimaraes, former employers Inter and Serbian side Vojvodina before finally appearing for his parent club in July 2014 for the first 45 minutes of a pre-season friendly victory over NK Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia.

Further spells at Vincent Tan-owned Bosnian club Sarajevo (twice), now-dissolved French minnows Arles-Avignon and Belgian top-tier team Mouscron followed, taking the 25-year-old's total tally of loans over a seven-year period to nine in eight clubs in eight different countries across Europe.

Delac became Chelsea's longest-tenured player over the summer after the departure of captain John Terry, although his current contract is due to expire in June 2018 and he is evidently not expecting to be handed another extension.

"Yes, soon will come a time I'll have to leave Chelsea," he admitted to SportSport.ba, per The Mirror. "Many people ask me do I regret coming to Chelsea so young, and not joining some smaller club, but I feel no regret.

"Your career can always be better, but I am 25 and have been through so much, met many coaches, players, gained experience. The problem was not my quality, Chelsea believed in me, extended my contract several times, but the problem was always work permit.

"Chelsea had a plan for my career, but you can not plan some things. As I arrived, aged 18, it seemed like some movie, I can't describe that feeling. I will remember the greatness of Chelsea FC, they raised me and taught me human and football manners. And of course my first game, in Ljubljana vs Olimpija, when I played with [Cesc] Fabregas, [Diego] Costa."

Delac also backed title-winning boss Antonio Conte to continue succeeding at Chelsea amid an underwhelming start to their Premier League defence and mounting pressure behind the scenes, adding: "Conte is great worker, professional, even when Chelsea is not doing well, I know it is just a phase and Conte will find a way out."