Chelsea academy star Lewis Baker hopes his loan experience with Dutch outfit Vitesse will help him to return to Stamford Bridge next summer as a better player. The 20-year-old midfielder moved to Eredivisie side during the transfer window in order to gain some first-team experience, with starting spots in Jose Mourinho's plans being at a premium.
Having moved to the Stamford Bridge academy in 2005 as a nine-year-old, Baker progressed through the Blues youth ranks before earning a first-team debut in an FA Cup victory over Derby County in January 20014. He was subsequently named the Chelsea young player of the year for the 2013-2014 campaign.
Mourinho promoted him to the first team during the early stages of last season but, struggling for playing time at West London, he was sent to Sheffield Wednesday on loan during the January window. His time at the Championship side, however, was short lived, before he was sent on loan to MK Dons, where he had an influential role in their promotion to the Championship.
Baker took further step in his career last summer to secure playing time in the top flight, moving to Vittesse. Having since made 11 appearances and scoring two goals with the Dutch club so far, the midfielder hopes the learning experience will earn him a return to the Blues next summer as an improved and more attractive prospect.
"I'm really enjoying it, the football is slightly different and is a lot more technical and tactical out here,' Baker told the FA's website during his time with Gareth Southgate's England squad ahead the European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Kazakhstan on Tuesday 13 October. "When we play the bigger teams, it's also a physical game. I've already learned a lot in the first few months and hopefully that can increase and next season, I'll return to Chelsea as a better player.
"The Eredivisie is a top league and it's a good learning place for me, on the pitch and off the pitch, seeing different cultures and the way players live with the different playing styles. It can all help you as a professional and add little bits to your game."
Baker is sharing the experience in the Eridivisie with a number of other Blues starlets, such as Izzy Brown, Dominic Solanke, Nathan and Danilo Pantic. He said that they have tried to live by themselves but are helping each other to adapt better to their new surroundings.
"We all live by ourselves, but in an area where we're five minutes from each other and five minutes from the training ground," he said. "And that's what we're there to do, concentrate on our football and become better players. It's not been too bad for us, because everyone in Holland speaks English so off the pitch, we're all coping very well and we try to do it on our own basis.
"But it's helped having the three of us out there because if anyone is feeling homesick, and Dom and Izzy are a bit younger than me, then we can all get together. We've all helped each other out in the few months that we've been there, sometimes there's been good times and sometimes there's been bad times but we're all helping each other."