Chelsea FC: Assessing Lucas Piazon and Blues Youngsters' Futures Under Di Matteo
Chelsea are fresh off of their incredible triumph at the Allianz Arena, where the Blues defied the odds to claim their first Champions League title in a penalty shootout.
Roberto Di Matteo was eventually installed as the manager on a permanent basis, after such a successful spell as interim boss in the wake of Andre Villa-Boas being sacked in March.
Di Matteo now faces the impossible task of maintaining his winning ways while delivering attractive football, which Roman Abramovich craves above everything else.
Here, I examine the next generation of Chelsea players and their futures under the new manager.
Oriol Romeu was signed by Andre Villas-Boas in 2011 from Barcelona.
A graduate from La Masia's academy, Romeu made 22 appearances in his debut season for the Blues.
The Catalan's impact was substantial under the Portuguese tactician but became restricted once Roberto Di Matteo inherited the chance.
The club's precarious position in the league and high-stakes matches in the Champions League meant the most established players were preferred.
I foresee a squad role for the 20-year-old next season, but given that Di Matteo is tasked with developing a more attractive style of football, the Spain under-23 international could offer a more progressive alternative to John Obi Mikel.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin de Bruyne is a new acquisition from Racing Genk.
Chelsea signed the Belgium international in January, before immediately loaning the 21-year-old back for the remainder of the season.
It is likely that Chelsea will look for a bigger club than Racing Genk to take the winger on a season-long loan to gain experience, preferably in the Premier League.
There remains the possibility he could remain at Stamford Bridge as a squad player due to being awarded the No. 14 shirt.
Romelu Lukaku endured a bittersweet season with the Blues.
The Belgium international secured a dream move to the club he has supported for years, as Chelsea paid Anderlecht £19.4 million.
However, Lukaku struggled to make an impact and was restricted to 12 appearances, without scoring a goal.
A loan away for the 2012-13 season is imminent after he stated in the aftermath of Chelsea's Champions League triumph that he felt no joy due to his limited contribution.
West Ham have been linked with Lukaku (per the Daily Mail) and would provide a decent opportunity to develop the player's talents.
Josh McEachran, long tipped for a starring role with England in the future, has been frustrated by a lack of opportunities at Chelsea.
Swansea landed the 19-year-old on a six-month loan last season, but the England under-21 international only made four appearances. That likely not only frustrated the player, but his parent club too, who must have felt it was a waste of six months.
A further loan away from the Blues feels appropriate for the left-footed creative midfielder, but this time, the recipient must be able to guarantee plenty of starts.
Sam Hutchinson recovered from a career-ending injury that saw the Chelsea youth product retire in 2010.
After significant improvement to his knee, Hutchinson signed a one-and-a-half-year contract in December 2011, before making two appearances under Roberto Di Matteo in the closing months of the season.
It seems highly unlikely that Hutchinson will ever be able to reach the required level to be able to succeed as a Chelsea player in the long term.
The 22-year-old will just be content that he can make a career in football as a player, which was something that appeared lost a year ago.
Ryan Bertrand announced himself to the world when he started the Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
The 22-year-old made his European debut at the Allianz Arena, performing admirably and showing that he has the potential to feature for Chelsea in the coming years.
Having signed a new four-year contract at the beginning of last season, I envisage that Bertrand will feature as a squad player under Roberto Di Matteo.
Part of the Great Britain squad to feature at the Olympics this year, Bertrand would certainly benefit from a loan to another Premier League club that could guarantee more minutes than the Blues.
However, given that Di Matteo trusted Bertrand in a Champions League final, I cannot imagine the Italian manager letting him leave now.
Gael Kakuta's career continues to frustrate those who can see his outrageous potential.
It is not too late for the France under-21 international, but time is running out, or patience rather, at Chelsea, who cannot wait much longer for his potential to be fulfilled.
It feels like Kakuta does not benefit highly from loan moves, so remaining at Stamford Bridge under Roberto Di Matteo remains a possibility.
Thibaut Courtois is a strange case.
The Belgium goalkeeper was signed by the Blues in 2011 from Racing Genk, but given the form of Petr Cech, a future at Stamford Bridge appears some time away.
Cech signed a new four-year contract this year, which will run until 2016. Considering the Czech international is only 30 years old, Courtois appears to be at least two seasons away from competing for a starting role at Chelsea.
Another year on loan at Atletico Madrid has been signed, with a third year on loan for the 2013-14 season in the Premier League appearing to be the plan.
Lucas Piazon is arguably Chelsea's most talented young player.
At only 18 years old, the Brazilian joined the Blues from São Paulo for £5 million in 2011, arriving at Stamford Bridge in 2012.
Piazon has yet to feature for the first team but starred in the Chelsea youth team's FA Youth Cup triumph this season, defeating Blackburn 4-1 on aggregate in the final. The Brazilian supplied two assists in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea strolled to a 4-0 victory.
After successful times with the Brazil under-15 and under-17 teams, Piazon's potential is exciting, but given his age, there is no rush to nurture his talent away from Stamford Bridge just yet.
I expect Piazon to remain at Chelsea, at least until January 2013, as a preseason tour with the first team will be beneficial.
The Best of the Rest
Bruma is a talented Dutch central defender who will return to Hamburg for a second consecutive season on loan in the Bundesliga.
Patrick van Aanholt
The left-sided player has been out on loan five times already with spells at Coventry, Newcastle, Leicester, Wigan and Vitesse. It appears that the Dutchman's career has stalled and that a permanent move away from the Blues would be for the best.
The Uruguayan spent last season on loan at Defensor Sporting, where he scored once in two games. Only 19 years old, another loan spell beckons, probably in Uruguay again.
The Czech defender has enjoyed loan spells with Sigma Olomouc, who originally sold the player to Chelsea for £5 million in 2010. Last season at Vitesse proved to be a fruitful period with 29 league appearances, and the 19-year-old would benefit from another season in the Eredivisie.
A young Mexican sensation who joined the Blues from Guadalajara in 2011, he was sent on loan to Vitesse also, but Dávila only made two appearances all season. The 21-year-old will hope for a better loan spell this season.
A talented forward who is versatile across all the positions in a front three, the 19-year-old was another player sent to the Eredivisie, with ADO Den Haag. Lalkovič only made two appearances, but his future looks promising given that he is already featuring heavily for the Slovakia under-21 side.
Chalobah was part of the England under-17 side that featured at the FIFA under-17 World Cup in Mexico in 2011. Apt in midfield as well as defence, with a classy touch and presence on the ball, he's a real star in the making. He's currently featuring for the England under-19 side.
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