Ranked! Chelseas 14 best academy graduates of the last 25 yearsFrom the plenty that got away to the current potential superstars, Garry Hayes counts down the best Blues youth talents of the Premier League era
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14. Sam Hutchinson
Before more recent names such as Andreas Christensen were on the radar of Chelsea’s first team, Hutchinson was the defender Blues fans were pinning their hopes on to break through and establish himself.
Had it not been for a series of knee injuries, the belief is that Hutchinson would have done so. He was even taken under the wing of Jose Mourinho, who gave him debut against Everton in May 2007.
Those injuries prevented the then-18-year-old from making another appearance until over two years later, and by the end of the 2009/10 season, Hutchinson was retiring from football. He was just 21 and went to work for the club’s academy.
Yet over the next 18 months, Hutchinson made a remarkable recovery and Chelsea re-signed him as a player in 2011, helping him salvage his career with loan spells at Nottingham Forest, Vitesse Arnhem and Sheffield Wednesday (who he later signed for permanently). Hutchinson is now enjoying life in the Championship at Hillsbrough.
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13. Josh McEachran
The Englishman is one of the many cautionary tales to have haunted Chelsea’s academy in recent years. Now at Brentford, the original plan was that McEachran would be turning out regularly in Chelsea’s midfield when he hit his mid-twenties.
That hasn’t happened for many reasons, notably a string of failed loan spells that damaged the confidence and progress of one of England’s most promising midfielders of modern times. Injuries have also played their part.
McEachran was given his debut as a 17-year-old by Carlo Ancelotti, but that was his as good as it got. In terms of his Chelsea career, it was all downhill from there.
12. Charly Musonda
Currently part of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea squad, Musonda’s star is definitely rising – although he still has much to prove if he’s ever to be regarded as a bona fide success.
The 21-year-old’s reputation is based on youth team performances and, after a couple of promising displays in this season’s League Cup, he's hinting at making an impression in the senior game.
The Belgian is a nippy attacker, modelling his game on compatriot Eden Hazard. If he can find the same level of consistency at Stamford Bridge, Musonda could save Chelsea millions in the transfer market.
11. Nathan Ake
When he departed on a permanent transfer to Bournemouth this summer, Chelsea fans were frustrated that Ake hadn’t been given what they perceived to be a fair crack at Stamford Bridge.
The Dutch defender was often on the fringes, impressing in the few appearances that he made. But with more experienced players ahead of him, the Dutchman became a victim of the culture created at Chelsea by the club’s desire to win at all costs.
That sometimes means talented players being denied opportunities – think Kevin De Bruyne, for instance – and Ake joins the many who went before him. The 22-year-old is not the finished article just yet and that meant time running out for him as a Chelsea player. The £20m trousered for his services didn't hurt, either.
10. Dominic Solanke
We’ve already referenced De Bruyne as one who got away for Chelsea, and now Dominic Solanke’s ambition is to add himself to that list. He joined Liverpool last summer after spending 12 years as a Chelsea player, falling out with the club about a contract dispute.
Chelsea’s loss is very much Liverpool’s gain. Reds fans were treated to a Solanke masterclass at the U20 World Cup this summer as the frontman was named Player of the Tournament when England ran out winners.
He’s still waiting for his career to shift into another gear, but the expectations are that his undoubted potential should be fulfilled under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield.
9. Ruben Loftus-Cheek
One of the many players who makes this list more on potential than what he's achieved thus far in the senior game - and like his former academy team-mates, time is on Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s side. Just about.
After establishing himself as a rampaging midfielder in Chelsea’s youth teams, it hasn’t quite been the same for Loftus-Cheek since making the step up. He’s been a victim of the managerial merry-go-round at Stamford Bridge that has seen him used in his more natural central midfield role, as a No.10 and even as a makeshift striker.
That hasn’t been good for his development, but things have improved this year with a loan move at Crystal Palace. The 21-year-old is back in midfield at Selhurst Park and been one of the few positives for the Eagles this season.
8. Tammy Abraham
With Abraham having bagged 23 league goals on loan at Bristol City last season, Chelsea fans were salivating at the thought of a future Solanke-Abraham strike pairing for the first team.
Both strikers played together in the teams that won FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League honours, scoring goals aplenty en route.
Whereas Solanke is yet to hit those same heights in the senior game, Abraham has wasted little time. He set the Championship alight last season at Ashton Gate and is now scoring at Swansea in the Premier League. Keep it up and Chelsea won’t be able to ignore him when his loan spell ends next summer.
7. Nathaniel Chalobah
Another Chelsea academy product seen as gone too soon, Chalobah finally made his Blues debut last term after 11 years with the club. But that wasn’t enough to keep him at Stamford Bridge.
Before that he'd built his reputation on the back of six loan spells at the likes of Watford, Middlesbrough, Reading and Napoli. Conte integrated him as a squad player but, now 22, the midfielder craved regular first-team football and forced through a permanent switch to Watford in the summer (for just £5m, no less).
Chalobah has been highly regarded at youth level, making over 100 appearances for England’s development teams.
6. Andreas Christensen
A player whose star is ever rising, Christensen is part of the generation of Chelsea youngsters who've teased fans with the idea of emulating Manchester United’s Class of ’92.
He’s been a Chelsea player since 2012, when he joined the club as a 16-year-old from Brondby. Since then the defender has won the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League, and spent two years on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach.
Like so few before him, however, Christensen has returned to west London this season to become vital in Conte’s first-team plans. The 21-year-old Denmark international is not a regular starter yet, although what we’re seeing now is a hint that he will be just that in the very near future.
5. Patrick van Aanholt
In 2008, before the current crop of young hopefuls were helping Chelsea dominate youth football, they reached their first FA Youth Cup final since the days of Ron Harris.
Left-back Van Aanholt was part of that side, and while he didn’t become a Blues regular, he's carved out a respectable career in the Premier League. After five loan spells he joined Sunderland in 2014, before sidling over to Crystal Palace in January 2017. He also has six caps for Holland.
Now 27, Van Aanholt may well be surpassed by those academy graduates currently coming through at Stamford Bridge, but right now he’s achieved enough to rank above their raw potential.
4. Jeffrey Bruma
Dutch defender Bruma played alongside Van Aanholt in the 2008 FA Youth Cup side that lost to Manchester City.
Unlike Van Aanholt, however, it’s been away from the Premier League where Bruma has played his football after leaving Chelsea in 2013 for PSV. He spent three years at the Philips Stadion, playing in the Champions League and becoming a regular in Holland squads.
He now calls the Bundesliga home, having joined Wolfsburg in 2016.
3. Jody Morris
Former Chelsea owner Ken Bates was so enamoured with Morris that he proudly announced him as a future club captain when Dennis Wise eventually left the club.
Morris had come through the Blues’ youth system in the mid-1990s, and with his diminutive frame and combative style was being compared to Wise. He had much more to his game, though, displaying a fine array of skills that set him apart from the usual English midfielders of his time.
Morris looked cultured in all facets of his play, but his behaviour off the field couldn’t be described in the same way. It eventually led to his downfall. He left Chelsea in 2003 – the same summer Roman Abramovich bought the club – and eventually ended up north of the border with St Johnstone.
He should have achieved so much more in his career – something Morris himself laments now. That said, he’s making up for it as Chelsea’s current U18s coach, and led them to FA Youth Cup success last season.
2. Ryan Bertrand
Here’s an interesting stat: since Bertrand was sold by Chelsea to Southampton for an estimated £10m in 2014/15, the Blues have spent £61m on trying to find a left-back to replace Ashley Cole.
Given Bertrand’s performances on the south coast, it beggars belief that Chelsea didn’t save all that money and give him an opportunity to cement his place as a first-choice defender.
Bertrand won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012, becoming the first player to make his debut in the competition in the final. He’s a full England international as well, having won 17 caps for his country.
1. John Terry
Forget Chelsea’s best academy products since 1992, has there ever been a better player to come from the club’s youth ranks than Terry?
Fans from the 1960s will argue a case for Peter Osgood and Ron Harris, which is a fine debate given all they achieved at Stamford Bridge. But look at the facts: there hasn’t been a more successful player in Chelsea's history.
Terry came through to captain the club during its most successful period. He led Chelsea to five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and success on the continent in the Champions League and Europa League.
He did it all at a time when the Blues were free-spending, dictating the transfer market thanks to the deep pockets of owner Roman Abramovich. Yet Terry bucked the trend to become a home-grown Chelsea great. It’s for good reason the fans call him their captain, leader, legend.