Dominic Solanke was the star man of England’s U20 World Cup triumph earlier this summer, scoring four goals en route to being named the best player at the tournament.
Prior to the competition it was announced the English forward was leaving Chelsea upon the expiration of his contract to join Premier League rivals Liverpool.
The 19-year old had been frozen out of Antonio Conte’s plans after rejecting a contract extension, citing the lack of an opportunity to break into the first team as his main reason for leaving. The same player that just won the U20 World Cup’s Golden Ball, previously won by world class players like Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba and Lionel Messi, was forced out because he couldn’t break into the Chelsea team, and it’s a move that will likely do wonders for his career.
And more Chelsea youngsters should follow his shining example.
No academy player has become a consistent starter at Stamford Bridge since 1998 debutant John Terry, whose contract expired this summer after a glorious Chelsea career. And it’s often not the player’s fault, but Chelsea’s.
Bertrand Traore signed for Lyon on 27 June after spending last season on loan at Europa League runners-up Ajax. The Burkina Faso international made 16 appearances and scored four times in Chelsea’s poor 2015-16 season, but the 21-year-old forward was one of the few positives from the campaign. He looked like a real Premier League player and was poised to be Diego Costa’s main backup last season until Chelsea spent £33m on 23-year old Michy Batshuayi.
Speaking of why he made the move to France, Traore said that everyone saw what he had done two seasons ago and the good pre-season he had last summer, but that a starting role for Chelsea was never going to come no matter what he did. And that speaks volumes.
Top Premier League clubs constantly speak of wanting to integrate youth players into the first team, but they often do the opposite and spend big money on foreign players, making the gap between academy and first-team even wider.
Nathaniel Chalobah surprised fans by making it into Antonio Conte’s first team this season and made 15 appearances. But despite Nemanja Matic potentially leaving, Monaco’s Timemoue Bakayoko is expected to complete a move to Stamford Bridge, giving Chalobah no chance at any more playing time this season.
At 22, Chalobah needs to leave for his own sake. The same can be said for 21-year old Brazilian Kenedy, blocked by Marcos Alonso and potentially Alex Sandro, for 22-year-old Nathan Aké, blocked by Conte’s lack of rotation and the potential purchase of Virgil Van Dijk, and 21-year old Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the postition-less 21-year-old who is blocked across the board.
And that’s just the most notable examples.
The Chelsea youth sides have won the FA Youth Cup four seasons in a row, so there is obvious talent. The London club knows how to develop talent, surely, but not integrate it, and that is a disservice to the youth players who deserve so much more. And that is why more need to leave Chelsea, permanently, once they believe they are ready for first-team football.
A youth player becoming a mainstay in the Chelsea first-team is a lie that rears its head every season. Should Dominic Solanke thrive under Jurgen Klopp, who is known to trust young players, then an exodus of Chelsea youth players could begin. Young players need to play and they need some form of stability.
A permanent move, as opposed to a series of loans, is what every young Blues star should be angling for. And they shouldn’t feel bad for not giving themselves a chance to make it at Chelsea, because the club sure isn’t giving them the chance.