With Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour making their Champions League debuts on Tuesday, it’s clear the youth project is far from over. Chelsea may have relinquished their stranglehold on the FA Youth Cup in recent years. But with a recent influx of defensive prospects, The Blues look set to regain their position as the country’s most prosperous academy. We take a look at some of the players who could make the step up to the first team in the coming years.
Born in Croydon, Valentino Livramento has been at Chelsea since 2010. Capable of playing at both right-back and right wing-back, the 18-year-old is famed for his impressive attacking capabilities. An aggressive and confident ball carrier, the youngster excelled in the FA Youth Cup final against Manchester City last month.
There is a maturity also to his game. As Chelsea Youth explains: “He has a tremendous engine, great anticipation and understanding of how to position himself against an opponent one-on-one, and then a range of ways to beat them.”
Livramento for all his ability, however, is unlikely to break into the first-team anytime soon. With Reece James cementing his place as Chelsea’s starting right-back over the past 12 months there’s little room for development, as Tariq Lamptey proved testament to.
A 6’4 Dutch youth international. The Virgil van Dijk comparisons are perhaps a bit too on the nose. But Xavier Mbuyamba’s summer arrival from Barcelona certainly caught people’s attention.
As his stature suggests he is a physically imposing centre-half, whose education in Spain has allowed him to cultivate his ball-playing abilities. As is the case with most youngsters Mbuyamba is adept in more than one position. Whilst most at home in the centre of defence, he is also able to play right-back although his future is unlikely to lie there.
Mbuyamba previously had a trial at Chelsea prior to moving to Barcelona and his return to the club this summer clearly signals how highly he is thought of at Cobham.
Fighting off interest from the likes of Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and Juventus it’s apparent that the 18-year-old’s ascension into the first-team is almost inevitable. Chelsea, however, still need to resolve the future’s of Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, and Marc Guehi before Mbuyamba can begin to make an impression on the first-team.
Of all the players mentioned in this article, Dynel Simeu has to date come the closest to breaking through into the first-team. Being named as an unused substitute in the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich last season.
The 18-year-old centre-half joined Chelsea from Southampton’s famed academy and has frequently been involved with first-team training.
A ball-playing defender, Simeu possesses plenty of pace and composure. He has been capped at youth level by England despite being born in Cameroon, but as previously mentioned in relation to Mbuyamba his pathway to the first-team may prove difficult.
The final name in our list of prospects is right-back Henry Lawrence, who was unlucky not to be named in the matchday squad for Chelsea’s recent trip to Seville. Having trained with the first-team in the build-up to the Blues’s crucial Champions League group game it was hoped the youngster might make his professional debut, especially in light of the eventual 4-0 scoreline. Lawrence will have to wait a while longer to make his bow, but Lampard is clearly enthused by the 19-year-old.
Starting his career as a central midfielder Lawrence impressed under the tutelage of Under-18s coach Andy Myers. His performances saw him called up to the England Under-19s set up in October 2019, where he scored on his debut.
Lawrence, though, was ultimately handed his first professional contract at Chelsea after showcasing his talent at right-back. His progression to the development squad saw him make 30 appearances across a multitude of positions, scoring five times.
Having been handed a new contract last month which keeps him at the club until the summer of 2023, Lawrence appears to have a bright future ahead of him. Although James’s presence in the first-team could see Lawrence look elsewhere for first-team opportunities.
Whilst the pathway into the first-team appears unclear for many of the players mentioned there is still hope that they can forge a career in the professional game, whether at Chelsea or elsewhere.
Written by Sam Tabuteau @tabuteauS
Edited by Jai Mcintosh @jjmcintosh5