Seemingly every Chelsea manager in recent memory is associated with the promotion and subsequent development of a talented young player. Jose Mourinho has Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Antonio Conte has Ethan Ampadu. Maurizio Sarri has Callum Hudson-Odoi (technically promoted under Conte, thrived with his successor). Frank Lampard—despite being responsible for a plethora of call-ups—has Mason Mount. Thomas Tuchel is eight months (almost to the day) into the job and although he inherited a young team from the off, he has yet to truly promote from within.
A mass youth exodus over the summer could have tarnished Tuchel’s reputation as far as integrating young players is concerned. Tino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour’s loan moves left the German gaffer without any true youngsters close to breaking through. There is Trevoh Chalobah, but he’s gotten first team experience elsewhere, so it’d be rather unfair to count his rise. This raised many questions about the path into the first team. However, there is still a plethora of talented, blossoming stars competing at Cobham. Tuchel’s team selection in the Carabao Cup revealed one candidate who could possibly be next big star at Stamford Bridge.
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Xavier Mbuyamba is the next best thing to emerge from the Chelsea youth ranks
Xavier Mbuyamba made his first appearance on the teamsheet against Aston Villa midweek, being named to the bench in the tie. A lot has been said about Mbuyamba over the last three seasons due to his odd transfer saga. After all of the ups and downs of his young career, it was wonderful to see him play a part, even if he didn’t get into the game.
The young centerback was en route to join the Blues from MVV Maastricht—where he became the youngest debutant in the Dutch club’s history—back in 2019 before the team’s transfer ban blocked the move. There was mutual interest though. He chose Barcelona as his temporary home for one season while he waited for the ban to lift. Although he didn’t join Chelsea right away, the English club eventually won his signature over other European giants, such as Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Real Madrid. There was understandably a lot of excitement around him in SW6 last season upon arrival, but a torn meniscus kept him out most of the campaign.
Mbuyamba has yet to get fully up to speed and establish himself as the next great Dutch centerback in England. Tuchel has taken a particular liking to him in recent weeks regardless of this fact. Mbuyamba joined first team training over the prior international break alongside a handful of other academy standouts. However, reports from Cobham and photos from Mbuyamba’s social media suggest he hasn’t returned to his old dressing room just yet. These suspicions were confirmed when his name appeared on Tuchel’s teamsheet for the first time in the EFL Cup.
The 19-year-old‘s inclusion suggests that the manager has taken a particular liking to him. Mbuyamba is a 6-foot-5 Dutch defender who is earning Virgil van Dijk comparisons after all, what’s not to love? The coming weeks will go a long way in revealing Tuchel’s true feelings for the centerhalf. It’s unlikely he regularly appears in the matchday squad given the Blues’ depth, but he could play a small part. Chelsea is still competing on five different fronts this year. Once the winter months roll around, the fixture list could get hectic—to say the least.
Odds are the coaching staff won’t turn to Lewis Baker for help in central defense as they did in the preseason, so Mbuyamba could earn his much anticipated debut at some point this year. Tuchel clearly sees what all the hype is about in the Dutch centerback. The promising teenager could end up being the youngster closely associated with Tuchel’s reign in the future and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The youth revolution is alive and well in west London with Mbuyamba leading the charge for the next generation of stars.
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