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Enzo Maresca can save Chelsea millions with eight wonderkids that solve FFP and transfer problem

Tyrique George
-Credit: (Image: Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)


Managers can only work with the tools at their disposal most of the time. But there is a significant disparity in the average age of Enzo Maresca's Leicester City side from last season and the one he will inherit at Chelsea.

This is largely down to recruitment - Leicester kept the bulk of a squad that was relegated from the Premier League and Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital have done their best to rid Chelsea of any remaining memories of the previous ownership, instead opting to bring in a host of young talent to grow over time - but stands for analysing anyway. It is especially pertinent when Maresca will be given the chance to work with one of the best pools of academy players anywhere on the planet.

Just this season Chelea gave senior debuts to five Cobham graduates. There arguably could and should have been more though, especially given the injury plague Mauricio Pochettino had to deal with.

Now it will be Maresca's turn to try and steer the club forward. There are rocky waters ahead, though. With added pressure to comply with Premier League financial rules and an emphasis on helping the expensive signings of the past two years grow, the new head coach will have different resources available to him.

In order to help the club's financial position, Cobham-nurtured players have been some of those disposed of to pay for the expensively assembled group on show. Lewis Hall, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are a few of those with more possibly to come.

With these players sold for pure profit, the idea is then to reinvest that money onto other youngsters that can have success on the pitch or be flipped for a profit - sometimes both. Chelsea still need to be careful with their spending though, especially without the luxuries of Champions League football and the broadcast revenue that comes with it.

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So where can Chelsea save on signings, instead opting to promote those that have cut their teeth closer to home? Here, football.london looks at some of the best talents that could make their breakthroughs in the coming two years.

Donnel McNeilly

Chelsea have already committed over £60million to signing South American teenage duo Kendry Paez (17, Ecuador) and Estevao Willian (17, Brazil). In their own Surrey-based academy is a player that has had a better individual season than both of them.

Although it is hard to compare the standard of football in Brazil and Ecuador with that of youth competitions in England, McNeilly still stands out. At 18 he not only smashed in 21 goals and six assists in 20 games for the Under-18 side, he also made steps into the Under-21s and development squad.

His current contract will expire in 12 months and there is plenty to do to tie him down, especially given both Estevao and Paez will arrive next year and join the queue of players seeking minutes to continue their development. McNeilly is more of a striker than the other two, but the competition will be tough, especially as Chelsea's record of integration is relatively poor considering the talent available.

Tyrique George

In what is a stacked Under-18 team, George is one of the standouts (but we could say that about most of them, in honesty). He has already been included on the bench in several first-team games this season and is one of the most exciting wingers on the books.

With nine goals and six assists in the Under-18 Premier League from 13 games he also stepped up to PL2 level and the Under-21s, making a strong contribution. Some of his impressive long-range goals have done the rounds on social media too.

Kiano Dyer

If the first two are about goals and assists than Dyer is more subtle. Not only does he command less physical presence on the pitch due to his size, but the former West Brom academy starlet - another who has started to make the bench - is about astuteness.

He combines a range of passing a dribbling from midfield with the knack of positioning himself to cut off dangerous attacks and spring forward. He is certainly one to keep an eye out for in pre-season.

Josh Acheampong

The only one so far to have made a senior debut, Acheampong is amongst the most highly thought of players at the academy. Aged 18 he is able to play both right-back and centre-back with ease, bringing calmness to the backline as well as quality in possession to get the ball up the field.

He can run mazily from defence or stand solidly in front of his own goal. With the injury issues for Reece James and Malo Gusto, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get more of a run out.

Ishe Samuels-Smith

Much like Acheampong, Samuels-Smith can play centrally or in full-back. He is commanding but cool at the back and leads with example in a competitive group full of strong defenders. Having trained regularly with the first-team last year, it wouldn't be a surprise if he came in for a bigger role moving forward.

Frankie Runham

After signing a new contract in 2024, Runham celebrated by going on a strong period of form. He managed six goals in his last 11 games for the Under-18 side as a 17-year-old, as well bagging a stunner against Wolves at Molineux in the Under-17 PL Cup final.

Billy Gee

The Under-21s captain, Gee has been leading from centre-back throughout 2023/24. He was first included in a senior squad in February for the Carabao Cup final and will be keen to progress through the ranks like Alfie Gilchrist in the coming years.

Michael Golding

The young midfielder has made his first-team debut and nearly scored during the FA Cup win over Preston earlier this year. Similar to Dyer, Golding is able to dictate play from deep but also provide cover moving back. He is established as a PL2 player despite his age and will be keen to get some more experience under his belt.