Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and the list goes on. Super Franks’ Chelsea have gained a reputation for utilising the club’s home-grown talent. For the last Decade The Blues’ youth teams have dominated Europe, consistently developing top prospects along the way. While we are finally seeing this in the first team, most of the prospects from previous years have unfortunately been overlooked by Chelsea’s managers prior to Frank Lampard.
So, here’s a look at some of the best talent to come out of Cobham that ‘got away’…
Most people probably don’t know that Arsenal’s 20-year-old star Eddie Nketiah is actually a product of the Chelsea academy system. Born in Lewisham, the striker signed on at Cobham in 2008, aged just nine, and remained there until as late as 2015 before signing for Arsenal. Nketiah has experienced a some-what breakthrough season in senior football this year and while it hasn’t been spectacular he has caught the eye both while on loan at Leeds and in Arsenal’s first team. The striker has put up terrific numbers at England junior level and is considered to be a top prospect by Arsenal fans. Although they definitely can’t claim he’s ‘one of their own.’
The image above is slightly misleading. While Rhian Brewster does hold a Champions League 18/19 winners medal, he hasn’t yet made a single appearance for Liverpool’s first team and is currently on loan at Swansea. Still, though, he’s considered to be one of the brighter prospects on Merseyside at the minute. Similarly to Nketiah, Brewster signed to the Chelsea youth academy in 2008 and spent the majority of his developing years there, leaving in 2014. The striker has scored 4 goals for Swansea this season, having moved to wales on loan in January – linking up with current Chelsea prospect Conor Gallagher. Brewster scored an astonishing 20 goals in 23 appearances for England’s U17 side and could well be one to make a senior debut in the coming years, will Chelsea regret letting him go?
It’s a well known fact that Declan Rice was released from the Chelsea academy in 2014. The defensive midfielder is best friends with current Chelsea star Mason Mount and has regularly expressed his desire to play with his childhood mate again one day. The 21-year-old has represented Ireland at international level but after just 3 friendly appearances switched his allegiance to England and is now a fairly established member of Gareth Southgate’s side, with 7 caps to his name. Having made 90 Premier League appearances for West Ham United already, Rice has become one of the better holding midfield players in the league. Chelsea will surely regret letting him go as a kid, as it’s heavily rumoured that he’s set to make a staggering £60M return to The Blues.
Bournemouth centreback Chris Mepham began his youth football career at Chelsea in 2008. The now 22-year-old remained on the club’s books until 2012 before making the switch to Brentford. The Welshman went on to establish himself in senior football, becoming an extremely solid defender in the Championship and ultimately earning his first international call-up in 2018 and he now has 10 Wales caps under his belt. In the summer of 2019 Mepham made the switch to Bournemouth and has been a regular feature in Eddie Howe’s side, having made 23 Premier League appearances this season. His clear potential as well as maturity at the back has lead to him being linked to a bigger transfer switch, despite being at Bournemouth less than a year.
27-year-old Milan Lalkovic’s Chelsea career didn’t pan-out how many expected. The London club snapped him up in 2007 from MFK Košice while he was just 14-years-old. The Slovakian forward was seen by many as a future first-teamer and considered to be one of the youngsters with the highest potential on Chelsea’s books. Unfortunately injuries held the attacker back and after loans to the likes of Walsall and Doncaster, Chelsea let go of Lalkovic in 2014 – with 0 first team appearances to his name. After spending most of his proceeding years up and down the English Football League, Milan now plies his trade for Czech side Baník Ostrava.
Milan does, however, still hold strong feelings for Chelsea. (he’s well worth a follow)
Still just 19-years-old, Jonathan Panzo remains a hugely bright prospect in defence. Born in Brockley, the centre-back signed for Chelsea in 2010 at just 10-years-old and spent his entire youth career with The Pensioners. Unfortunately, during his almost decade-long spell at the club there was next to no opportunities for home-grown talent to breakthrough into the first team and so he made the decision to switch to AS Monaco in 2018. The Englishman is currently out on loan with Belgian outfit Brugge but is gaining valuable senior minutes. Having been a stalwart for England’s junior teams (featuring from U16 up to U21) he’s certainly one to keep an eye on. I’m pretty certain he’d still be around if Lampard’s managerial reign came along slightly earlier.
There have been so many players to come out of the Chelsea Academy who have seemingly ‘got away’ from The Blues. Too many to name in one article, in fact. So stay tuned for part two coming soon!
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