Chelsea has many elite players at Thomas Tuchel’s disposal and it begs the question; what are the prospects for the young players? Part one examined the prospects of three players in the club squad, while Part two discussed three players on loan in England. Part Three focuses on players abroad.
Chelsea has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to elite young players, and while those players can be found in their attack and midfield, it is the defense that steals the show. Juan Castillo, Trevoh Chalobah and Marc Guehi are all very good young players while Jake Clarke-Salter was likened to a young John Terry and Ian Maatsen is versatile and good enough to let Tariq Lamptey walk out the door.
However, there are no more impressive young Chelsea defenders than Fikayo Tomori. The 23-year-old Canadian born center back is on loan at AC Milan, settling in fantastically well. He put in a good display off the bench only a day or so after he arrived in Milan, then followed that up with a strong, composed performance at Bologna and then again against Crotone.
Tomori has always been a Chelsea defender for the future, and his lack of appearances under Frank Lampard this season – the man who brought him to Derby County where Tomori was Player of the Season and played him a lot in his first year – was puzzling.
His raw pace is matched by his composure on the ball so, no matter the backline Tuchel opts to play, Tomori could settle in anywhere along the back three or as part of a center back partnership. A stronger Antonio Rudiger, a quicker Andreas Christensen and a more composed Cesar Azpilicueta is the type of defender Tomori has all the attributes to be.
The issue here, and it is a disastrous one for Chelsea, is that there was an option-to-buy clause in Tomori’s loan with AC Milan. The Blues are known for being excellent in transfer dealings and negotiations, but if Tomori does leave the club thanks to this clause, it is a travesty of epic proportions for Chelsea’s backline of the future, not to mention the present.
The first point to be made about Tiemoue Bakayoko is that is he not really young – he’s 26 – but he makes an appearance on this list because he is the only player (outside of the other two mentioned) that has a legitimate shot at pulling on a Chelsea shirt again.
One could mention Lewis Baker, currently at Trabzonspor, or perhaps Ike Ugbo who is on-loan at Cercle Brugge. However, Baker has never given the impression that he will cut it at Stamford Bridge, while Ugbo has all the raw talent to do it but it’s just so early in the striker’s career, and Chelsea such a step up from Cercle Brugge, he needs more time to play.
Back to Bakayoko, and he is another who never reached what was expected from him. To get the best out of Bakayoko he needs to be as part of a fixed midfield two, which plays well into the Frenchman’s hands as Tuchel has so far opted to use that formation.
Yet Bakayoko has played his best football away from Stamford Bridge. He found form in Italy, first with AC Milan and now with Napoli, but he is attempting to find a place in a team that is filled with central midfielders.
You would be hard pressed to find any Chelsea fan who would pick Bakayoko over N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic or Ruben Loftus-Cheek. If you add the names of Billy Gilmour or Conor Gallagher it’s unlikely Bakayoko displaces them either. The end is near for Bakayoko, but at least his form means Chelsea can recoup what they spent.
To say that Malang Sarr’s arrival at Chelsea flew under the radar would be an understatement.
Don’t let this fool you, Sarr is a top-quality central defender and has lots of experience already, having made over 100 appearances for OGC Nice. The 22-year-old is good in the air, can pass well and is extremely composed on the ball, frequently carrying it forward at Nice without any issue. He is currently playing at Porto, although appearances are a tad hard to come by.
At just 22 and 23 respectively, in Sarr and Tomori, Chelsea very well could have their center backs of the future, but the Blues run the risk of their chronic short-sightedness. It is no secret that Thiago Silva cannot play every game while Azpilicueta is seeing his clock run down; Rudiger is edging closer to that mark and Christensen has yet to rediscover his best form while Tuchel doesn’t appear to trust Kurt Zouma.
Chelsea have been linked with RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano and while he would be a phenomenal purchase for the club, he is but one man. Sarr can fit in perfectly to Tuchel’s system and while he isn’t at a level that should displace Zouma or Christensen right now, he is made for the Premier League.
If Chelsea were to sign Upamecano, a back three of Sarr – Upamecano – Tomori would be terrifying to come up against for any team in England or Europe.
That backline is further off, and it’s entirely possible none of those three plays for the club, but that would not be because of their abilities or fit in the team. It just remains to be seen if Chelsea will allow Sarr to progress and form a valuable member of the team next season, or if they will do what they always do – just like they did with Tomori – and smash the hyper-speed button.