5 Chelsea Youngsters Who Could Break into the First Team in 2013-14
While the majority of the focus is on the big-name, big-money signings that could be arriving at Stamford Bridge this summer, there are a few youngsters on the books who could potentially be ready to step up to the first team next season.
Nathan Ake showed last year how important it is for the stars of the future to take their chance when it is presented to them. Although he was used sparingly throughout the campaign, his composure and skill impressed the supporters, and will have given hope to several other youngsters who are looking to make their breakthrough at Chelsea.
Here are the top five hopefuls who could make the senior squad at Stamford Bridge next season.
Thorgan Hazard joined Chelsea in 2012, just a few weeks after older brother Eden. He went back home to Belgium on a season-long loan where he put in some impressive performances, scoring three goals and assisting a further six.
He has apparently caught the attention of Belgian Pro League champions Anderlecht, according to Sky Sports, but Chelsea will ultimately have the final say over his future.
The prospect of having two brothers as talented as the Hazards would give Chelsea a unique advantage over their rivals. If Thorgan can begin to match the potential of his brother, he could certainly challenge for a place in the first team.
Chelsea signed Wallace from Fluminense in January 2013, per ChelseaFC.com. He spent the remainder of the season on loan at his former club, but will join up with the squad for the preseason tour of Asia. Former Chelsea midfielder Deco encouraged Wallace to sign for the Blues, according to PremierLeague.com, but warned him he will need to work hard to secure a starting role.
The 19-year-old plays as an attacking right-back in a similar style to Cesar Azpilicueta. He has been compared to Real Madrid's Marcelo and comes from the same academy as Manchester United's twin full-backs Fabio and Rafael Da Silva.
Whilst it would be unusual for a player as young and lacking in Premier League experience as Wallace to immediately break into the first team, Jose Mourinho could give him the chance to earn his place by naming him in the senior squad.
Nathaniel Chalobah is one of the most talked-about Chelsea youngsters. Chalobah has been part of the Chelsea academy since his school days and led the team to FA Youth Cup triumph in 2012, having signed his first professional contract in January of the same year.
He spent the 2012-13 season on loan at Watford, working under Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola and putting in some impressive performances. He scored five goals in 38 appearances for the Hornets, and Zola is keen to keep him at Vicarage Road next season.
However, his versatility and ability to play as a centre-back or defensive midfielder could see him recalled to Chelsea as direct cover for David Luiz. You can see him in action for the England Under-21 side at the European Championships in June 2013.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek began his Chelsea career as an Under-8 and has progressed through the ranks ever since. Although Chelsea were defeated by Norwich City in the 2012-13 FA Youth Cup final, the 17-year-old should not be too disappointed. He was selected as part of the first-team squad to travel to America for the postseason matches against Manchester City.
Loftus-Cheek plays as a box-to-box midfielder and has some impressive skills to go along with his mouthful of a name. He has been compared with Frank Lampard in the Guardian and boasts an impressive passing range.
Whilst Lampard has signed a contract that will keep him at Chelsea for at least another season, now could be the perfect time for Loftus-Cheek to step up to the first team and work directly with his hero.
Romelu Lukaku signed for Chelsea in August 2011. After spending the majority of his first season in the reserve side, the 6'4", 200-pound Belgian spent the 2012-13 season on loan at West Bromwich Albion.
He took his opportunity for first-team football with relish, scoring 17 goals in 20 appearances for the Baggies. Despite this, his future at Chelsea remains in the balance as he is waiting to speak to Jose Mourinho before deciding on his future, according to The Sun. His compatriot and Blues teammate Eden Hazard has tipped him for success should he return, also according to The Sun.
Lukaku is keen to continue playing regularly, and with the striker situation at Chelsea remaining unresolved, the 2013-14 season could be remembered as the year that the beast from Belgium made his breakthrough.