It’s been another stellar year for Chelsea’s youth players. They picked up the FA Youth Cup for the third time in five years, and the Barclays Under-21 Premier League in only its second season. The future, it would seem is not orange but blue. But how many of those players are likely to become Chelsea first-team regulars in the years to come. The club is often chastised for the fact that John Terry is the last youth player to really make it at Stamford Bridge. Here are five of the current crop, however, who could and should follow in his footsteps.
The Czech centre-back is not, strictly speaking, in the club’s youth squad. After two years on loan at Dutch club Vitesse, he was integrated into the first-team squad last summer. But he’s only 21 and until April, he hadn’t even made a single starting appearance in the first team, so I reckon he counts as a youth player.
Last season was largely a disappointment for Kalas – he told Czech TV that he was only used in training sessions, and only then in place of a cone – until he finally made his debut, at Anfield of all places, against one of the most prolific attacks in the Premier League. He excelled, keeping Luis Suarez completely in check and helping deliver a clean sheet.
It didn’t come as a complete surprise to anyone who had seen him play before. He’s a superb tackler, comfortable on the ball, technically and tactically aware, and is sharp, fast and strong. Not the tallest of centre-backs, he makes up for that with his ability in the air. Pretty much the full package.
The Dutch 19-year-old has captained the youth team and made his debut for the first team at the end of the 2012/13 season. He’s happy in central defence and as the holding midfielder, which is where he may just get some first-team games this season, as back-up to Matic. He’s a calm, collected ball player who reads the game well and rarely makes mistakes.
This is the player the club are privately raving about – a 19-year-old attacking midfielder who has excelled for the Chelsea and England youth teams. Two-footed, technically gifted, a sweet passer and capable of quite sensational strikes on goal, it’s like watching a more elegant version of Lampard. He’s a natural leader too, and captained the under-21s. He’s only played 3 minutes for the first team so far, but if he doesn’t go much, much further, then there is something seriously wrong.
Eden’s younger brother spent last season out on loan at Belgian club ZulteWaregem. He was a huge hit there, scoring 20 goals and being voted their player of the year. He’s an attacking midfielder with sensational ball skills, and his elder brother claims that Thorgan is the more talented of the pair. It would be a surprise if hewan’t incorporated into the first-team squad this season or next.
The youngest of the bunch is this 16-year old attacking phenomenon. He scored the crucial goals that helped Chelsea to the FA Youth Cup and England to the European Under-17 Championship last month. He’s a long way off the first team just yet, but he’s powerful and quick enough to play at under-21 level already. Possesses an excellent shot and a presence of mind in the penalty area which makes him a natural goalscorer.