Nathan Ake has gone from fighting for the title to battling against relegation — and he could not be happier. 

Back in June, the Holland international asked to leave champions Chelsea to join Bournemouth. 

One glance at the League table may lead some to wonder whether the defender is already starting to question the wisdom of that move.

As Ake prepares to face his former club for the first time at the Vitality Stadium tomorrow, Bournemouth are second from bottom. Chelsea have not got off to the best of starts by their standards, yet they still sit nine points and 15 places above them.

But Ake told Standard Sport: “I have no regrets, no way. I am still 100 per cent happy with my decision. 

“It is still early in the season. We didn’t start the season well, but the quality of our football is coming back, we are scoring good goals. The defending is getting better too. 

“It’s just about picking up more points and we will do that with the quality we have in the squad.”

Ake spent a total of six years at Stamford Bridge, having joined the club’s Academy at the age of 16.

In that time, he made just nine starts for the club, with regular football only being provided during loan spells at Reading, Watford and Bournemouth. It has become a familiar tale for many talented Chelsea youngsters. 

In Pictures | Chelsea vs Watford | 21/10/2017

However, the seeds of Ake’s divorce from the club were actually sown after they had appeared to make a huge statement of intent that he was a big part of their long-term plans.

Ake was on a season-long loan at Bournemouth last term and performed so impressively that a break clause was triggered in January so he could rejoin Chelsea’s squad.

Coach Antonio Conte wanted the versatile 22-year-old to provide cover for the wing-back positions, the centre- halves and in midfield.

But after receiving a phone call from Conte at the start of the year to explain his importance to the side, Ake went on to make just five appearances.

One of those was an impressive display against Tottenham and Harry Kane in the FA Cup semi-final victory at Wembley. However, he was named in the first XI just once after that.

“When I returned from loan I thought I’d get more chances to play,” Ake said. “I had a few games, but I wanted to have that feeling of playing every week. It’s what I need at my age. 

“Maybe what happened after the FA Cup semi-final was a reality check. After playing in a game like that, you want to play again. But I was conscious that the team playing every week was doing really well. They were competing for the title. 

“I understand the manager’s point of view at Chelsea. They have a lot of pressure on them and maybe it’s difficult to throw in youngsters. I’m not angry at Chelsea or disappointed. I really had a good time there and learnt a lot. 

“At the end of the season I just felt that the time had come. Chelsea were disappointed and wanted to keep me, but they understood as well. They didn’t want to stop me from fulfilling my dreams.”

At Bournemouth he has no doubts over his value, as they spent a club record £20million to buy him. Now he faces a different challenge: the burden of expectation that price tag brings and playing in the top flight every week.

He explained: “I put pressure on myself anyway, but of course you want to repay a club when they spend so much money on you.

“I had a couple of games against Manchester City and Arsenal where I didn’t play so well and that was a tough time for me. But unlike at Chelsea, I was still playing the next week. I had to come back stronger, show the character to get through it. 

“It’s good to play a lot of games in a row and I’m learning a lot from it already. I have improved and become mentally stronger.”

The majority of Chelsea’s squad is obviously familiar to Ake, but his main job will be to  stop their biggest summer buy, Alvaro Morata.

The Spain international has seven goals to his name already, however Ake is growing accustomed to facing the finest strikers the league has to offer.

“I am not intimidated by anyone,” he insisted. “I obviously have respect for my opponents and it will be a good battle, for sure.

“I always want to test myself against the best players, so I’m actually looking forward to it. I won’t go into it soft.

“He is a top striker and has been playing really well so far. He has got all the attributes. I need to be focused and I hope to stop him.

“Playing against Chelsea won’t give me more motivation. I have nothing against them. It is not like I will be going out there thinking, ‘I want to prove this and that’. But to win will be the ideal story and we fancy our chances.”

Should that be the case, Chelsea will certainly be the ones feeling a sense of regret.

Source: https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/nathan-ake-i-have-no-regrets-about-leaving-chelsea-i-needed-to-follow-my-dreams-a3669511.html