Chelsea loan army: Keep, loan or sell? Ike Ugbo (Part 33)

In Part 32 of this series, I broke down Malik Mothersille’s career at Chelsea and discussed what his future in football looks like. For those who haven’t read the introductory piece to this series, a different player will be the subject of a new article every day. I began with goalkeepers and am currently in the process of working my way up the pitch, with each position group being sorted in order by the way in which they appear on the club’s website.

As I conclude the loan army series, I wrap up the deep dive into the forwards with Ike Ugbo. Ugbo burst onto the scene recently as one of Europe’s lesser-known, yet more prolific, goalscorers. He’s undoubtedly got a bright future ahead of him in football. But before discussing what’s next for the English international, we’ve got to learn about his beginnings.

What does Ike Ugbo’s Chelsea career look like?

Ugbo joined the Blues as an under-10 player back in 2007. He originally played in numerous midfield and attacking positions for Chelsea, it wasn’t until the 2014/15 season that the London native locked down his future as a No. 9. He scored double-digit goals from the striker spot during that season, also debuting for the U19s and U21s. He was 17. This kicked off his rapid rise through the youth ranks over the next few years. Ugbo scored 24 goals the following season for the U18s. He also had important strikes in the Youth Cup for Jody Morris’ squad the next two years and won multiple trophies. Ugbo built a reputation for performing on the big stages and scoring frequently.

The young striker’s professional career kicked off the following campaign after he spent 10 years developing in Chelsea’s academy. Ugbo embarked on his first loan to Championship side Barnsley during the 2017/18 season. It was set to be a season-long loan, but the Blues recalled him after he only appeared in 18 matches from August to January. Ugbo tallied three goal contributions in about 900 minutes for the Tykes.

From there, he joined MK Dons in League One for the remainder of the year. His struggles in English football continued though as he scored just twice in 17 games. Scunthorpe United secured the services of the striker for the 2018/19 season, but the story remained the same. Throughout his year-long loan in League One, Ugbo managed just a single goal, his fifth with his last three clubs.

Chelsea then sensed a trend and allowed Ugbo to go out on loan to Holland’s second division. Ugbo broke out of his shell in senior football for the first time when he joined Roda JC. He eclipsed the 2,000-minute mark for the first time in his young career in his 29 games in the Netherlands. The English forward found the back of the net an astonishing 13 times and earned three assists. This breakout performance persuaded the Blues to send Ugbo out on a top flight loan for the first time in his career during the current campaign. He joined Cercle Brugge of the Jupiler Pro League in August. Ugbo has been a smashing success in Belgium this year, scoring 16 in twice as many contests in league play.

This begs the question: what does Chelsea do with Ugbo this summer?

Verdict: Sell

The only reason I put sell here is because the decision has basically been made for me. Chelsea is in talks with recently promoted Watford regarding a deal for Ugbo. He’s enjoyed his best top flight season to date and the Blues are looking to cash in while they can. If Ugbo’s move to Chelsea’s northern neighbors falls through, there are a host of other clubs keen on making a permanent deal for the 22-year-old. This list includes Cercle Brugge (who has a buy-clause in Ugbo’s current contract, although he’d rather go elsewhere), Eintracht Frankfurt, Genk and Monaco. For what it’s worth, I would’ve suggested the Blues sign Ugbo to an extension and send him out on loan to a top five European league, but that’s neither here nor there at this point.

Remember to check back with The Pride of London each and every day as I dive into the largely uncharted world of Chelsea’s famous loan army. The series will conclude on May 6 with a recap.