Why Charly Musonda Is Chelsea's Most Intriguing, Exciting Youth Prospect

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterApril 28, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Chary Musonda of Chelsea is tackled by  Brandon Barker of  Manchester City during the FA Youth Cup Fina, Second Leg match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on April 27, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

As if it were possible, Charly Musonda added yet another string to his fledgling bow on Monday evening as he turned in a stunning performance against Manchester City, helping Chelsea to a 2-1 (5-2 aggregate) victory in the FA Youth Cup final.

The Blues have been dominant over this two-year span in youth competitions and won the UEFA Youth League earlier in April by defeating Shakhtar Donetsk 3-1 in the final in Nyon, Switzerland. Monday capped a stunning few weeks for them and Musonda in particular, who is rising in estimations worldwide by the day.

It was something of a surprise to see the Belgian line up in central (holding) midfield on Monday; Ruben Sammut played there alongside fellow star Charlie Colkett in the first-leg victory and was impressively solid throughout.

But any preconceived worries of a lack of defensive nous were dispelled within minutes, as Musonda tore about the pitch and surged forward from deep. Chelsea established an early measure of control over the game, and with Jeremie Boga flashing potential rather than beaming it consistently, Musonda took on the mantle of chief creator.

Perhaps most tellingly, his reaction to losing the ball in the first half was exactly what everyone inside the stadium wanted to see: He sprinted 20 yards back and executed a fantastic sliding tackle, dispossessing his counterpart, turning, and restarting an attack.

Throughout the past two years he's shown electric pace, mazy dribbling skills and mesmeric ball control, but adding the gutsy, workmanlike element to his game opens up yet more avenues for his career. What is his best position? Is it deeper, as a No. 6, or further forward, as a No. 10 or No. 11?

He's played all of these roles this season alone, and while Monday wasn't his first go at playing in a deeper position (he played there against Malmo in the Youth League in 2014), he'd certainly be deemed unfamiliar to the role.

His adaption, like many at the club, should not come as a surprise. Jose Mourinho is famed for valuing strong defensive work ethic in many of the players, and captain Colkett told journalists after the game that he (and others) had been learning from the senior players and in particular Cesc Fabregas' willingness to embrace the defensive side of the game.

NYON, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 13:  Charly Musonda (R) of Chelsea FC and Beka Vachiberadze (L) of FC Shakhtar Donetsk in action during the UEFA Youth League final match between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea FC at Colovray on April 13, 2015 in Nyon, Switzerla
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

"You see how good he [Cesc] is on the ball and how he's adapted to the defensive side [of the game], which Jose Mourinho likes a lot," Colkett said. "That's what I'm trying to do: learn from that."

Manager Joe Edwards confirmed as much after the game too, lauding the work rate of his offensive skill players over two legs:

"When they're over there [training with the seniors] and seeing the way players like Willian and Eden Hazard work...attacking players aren't often renowned for their hard work and the shift they put in off the ball," he enthused. "Particularly, across these two legs, we didn't want to let Man City play, so we asked for a lot of work from the front and I thought the shift they put in was outstanding."

Bottom line, Musonda needs to put on some weight. Unlike colleagues Ola Aina, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Dominic Solanke, who are kids in adults' bodies, the Belgian is a rake. His game cannot translate to professional level in any position if he stays as slender, and it will be interesting to see what strength and conditioning programme he's given over the summer and how the final growth spurt alters his somatotype.

But he's an exceptional talent in waiting, and he's exciting the fans. Boga's perhaps the most obviously pro-ready of the group, but Musonda is one of the most intriguing. His brilliant performance in central midfield simply adds another layer to what is sure to be a career worth keeping an eye on. His progression to senior football could be one of the most interesting storylines in recent Chelsea youth history.

Facially he looks like a clone of Paul Pogba, but playing-wise he looks so similar to Gael Kakuta. Those two players represent two ends of a ridiculously long scale upon which a young player can land; how will Musonda fair when taking the next step?

*All quotes obtained first-hand on location.

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