Football Features

Every player to win Chelsea’s Young Player award during the Abramovich era – and what happened next

By Squawka News

Published: 18:09, 7 January 2021

Many have criticised Chelsea’s academy over the years, but they sold Nathan Ake to Bournemouth for £20m to serve as proof that they are capable of producing talented players — and let’s not forget about Bayern Munich’s obsessive pursuit of Callum Hudson-Odoi. 

The sale of Ake came just six months after they recalled the youngster from a season-long loan back in 2017. It seemed they intended to play him but in the end, they didn’t.

Chelsea inserted a buy-back clause into the deal at the time, but it had long been considered that Ake’s time playing for the Blues was over, especially as the Dutchman’s long-term future will be at Manchester City after the Cherries accepted a £41m bid for his signature last summer.

He’s far from the only one to have failed to secure regular game time during the Roman Abramovich era, despite being very highly rated as a youngster.

That said, under Frank Lampard, and with a little help from a transfer ban, the Blues have now started looking to that production line for talent, with the likes of Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham, Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James all receiving regular minutes in the Chelsea first team.

We here at Squawka have had a look at where each of winner of the ‘Young Player of the Year’ under Abramovich is now.

The 2008 and 2010 editions of the award were both won by Chelsea’s under-18 team as a whole, rather than any one individual player.

2003, 2004 & 2005 – Robert Huth

Chelsea appearances: 62

Current club: Retired

When Abramovich bought Chelsea, Huth was already reigning Young Player of the Year. He retained the trophy a further two times for an incredible three-peat. He really was a strong Premier League prospect who, via Middlesbrough and Stoke City, found his place at Leicester City, where he hit the big time by winning the Premier League title in 2016.

Huth subsequently struggled to live up to the level he established in the miracle of 2015/16 due to injury and announced his retirement in January 2019.

2006 – Lassana Diarra

Chelsea appearances: 31

Current club: Retired

A tumbling bundle of defensive energy, Lass Diarra was intended to be the heir to Claude Makelele but never quite lived up to that hype for the Blues who turfed him off to Arsenal. Having left French powerhouse Marseille and (lavishly) slumming it in the UAE, Diarra returned to France in January 2018 to sign for French giants PSG. However, he mutually terminated his contract at the Ligue 1 champions and retired early in 2019.

2007 – John Obi Mikel

Chelsea appearances: 381

Current club: Stoke City

This was one that most definitely hit. The young Nigerian that Chelsea had to illegally snatch out of the clutches of rivals Manchester United proved he was worth the fuss by instantly settling in to play well. Mikel played for over a decade in blue, winning everything there was to win. He enjoyed a very well-earned bumper payday with Chinese club, Tianjin Teda, before moving to Middlesbrough in January 2019 and then Trabzonspor, where he remained until March 2020. He’s now plying his trade at Championship club Stoke City.

2009 – Michael Mancienne

Chelsea appearances: 6

Current club: Free agent

Mancienne was a rugged centre-back who was versatile enough to play right-back as well as defensive midfield. Sadly for him, that versatility didn’t help him break into the Chelsea side. After a three-season spell with Nottingham Forest. Mancienne moved on to MLS side, New England Revolution in 2018, becoming their highest-paid player ever at the time, although he was hardly a success having been released in 2020.

2011 – Josh McEachran

Chelsea appearances: 22

Current club: Birmingham City

McEachran was meant to be the next great English playmaker. His rise came at a time when Xavi and Andres Iniesta made short technical midfielders en vogue, and McEachran was to be Chelsea’s prize. However, it never really worked out. McEachran went on to make 101 appearances for Brentford before rejecting a contract extension from the London side. He joined Birmingham City on a free transfer in September 2019.

2012 – Lucas Piazon

Chelsea appearances: 3

Current club: Rio Ave (on loan from Chelsea)

Chelsea’s Brazilian wonderkid Lucas Piazon could have been really special. Here was a player dubbed “the next Kaka” as he played in a similar fashion and was also from Sao Paulo. But Piazon was loaned out all over the place and thus failed to settle and develop. He’s technically still at Chelsea, but at 26, his time has probably passed, especially given he’s out on loan again, this time with Portuguese side Rio Ave.

2013 – Nathan Ake

Chelsea appearances: 17

Current club: Manchester City

Nathan Ake is exactly the kind of multi-functional player that Chelsea should and could have made a key part of their first-team squad. However, it wasn’t to be, and Ake can now look forward to playing for a top-four side after Bournemouth — where he made over 120 appearances — accepted Manchester City’s offer for his services. To date, he’s been regularly utilised by Pep Guardiola.

2014 – Lewis Baker

Chelsea appearances: 1

Current club: Trabzonspor (on loan from Chelsea)

Lewis Baker was an extremely promising young creative midfielder. Another version of McEachran, but better. He should have become something special, but instead finished up a two-year loan at Vitesse in 2017 and racked up 17 caps for England, at Under-21 level. There may have been a chance that Baker could have featured this season with Chelsea’s transfer embargo and Lampard having utilised him in pre-season, but instead, the 25-year-old was recently sent out for the seventh loan spell of his career, this time in Germany with Fortuna Dusseldorf. That deal included an option for Baker to sign permanently. But that wasn’t exercised and he’s now representing Trabzonspor on loan from the Blues.

2015 – Kurt Zouma

Chelsea appearances: 135

Current club: Chelsea

Kurt Zouma was and is an absolute gold standard centre-back. A colossus of a defender. Had he not torn his cruciate ligaments then he may well have been a key figure in France’s World Cup-winning squad.

Zouma was, arguably, the standout player for Stoke during a loan spell there two seasons ago as the Potters were relegated from the Premier League, while he shone once more at Everton in 2018/19 prompting Lampard to reject overtures from the Toffees and make him a key component of his starting XI last season, with his exploits earning him a call-up to the France squad. Zouma remains an integral figure at the heart of Chelsea’s defence.

2016 – Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Chelsea appearances: 82

Current club: Fulham (on loan from Chelsea)

This man-mountain of a midfielder first broke through under Jose Mourinho. Here was a footballer made for the Premier League; physically imposing but technically terrific. Success seemed to be a guarantee but lack of playing time at Stamford Bridge hampered his progress a little. At 24, he has plenty of time to realise his full potential, which he appeared to be doing at the end of last season before an Achilles injury back in May sidelined him for a prolonged spell, he’s now back fit and turning out for west London rivals Fulham albeit temporarily away from the Bridge.

His most successful stint was arguably on loan at Crystal Palace where he made 25 appearances in all competitions and earned a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s England World Cup squad in the summer of 2018.

2017 – Mason Mount

Chelsea appearances: 76

Current club: Chelsea

There is a lot of excitement surrounding Mason Mount — and with good reason. The 21-year-old scored 14 goals while on loan with Eredivisie side, Vitesse Arnhem, two seasons ago and then flourished under Lampard at Derby County last season.

Mount bagged 11 goals in 44 appearances for the Rams, earning him a call-up to the England senior side for the Uefa Nations League matches against Spain and Croatia in October 2018. The midfielder didn’t get on to the pitch, but the call-up alone was a staggering achievement considering he was a Championship player at the time.

Since then, he’s gone on to pick up his first 13 caps for the Three Lions, netting three goals for Gareth Southgate’s side so far.

Given how well he’s acquitted himself in the famous blue of Chelsea, notching nine goals and 12 assists in 76 appearances, his position in the England squad is fully justified.

2018 – Andreas Christensen

Chelsea appearances: 107

Current club: Chelsea

Andreas Christensen enjoyed a stellar 2017/18, making 40 appearances across all competitions as the Blues sealed an FA Cup win in Antonio Conte’s final season in charge.

This looked set to propel the Dane’s career into orbit. However, Maurizio Sarri switched to a back four upon his arrival and he barely seemed to trust Christensen, with Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz dominating the centre-back positions. As a result, the 24-year-old was restricted to 29 appearances. He has found more consistency under Lampard, though tends to remain on the fringes.

2019 – Callum Hudson-Odoi

Chelsea appearances: 76

Current club: Chelsea

Earmarked as the one, Hudson-Odoi is the teenage phenom who many are dubbing the greatest player to have emerged from Chelsea’s academy, with Bayern Munich seemingly doing everything in their power to try and sign him, and Chelsea doing everything in theirs to convince him to stay.

And stay the talented tyro has, with Sarri eventually seeing sense and providing the young star minutes to thrive last season, which he was doing in abundance and looked every bit the multi-million-pound winger the Bavarians rated him as.

Such has been his meteoric rise to prominence that he already has three England caps to his name and has amassed over 70 appearances for Chelsea’s first team at just over 20 years old.

It was devastating when he injured his Achilles tendon last year, but he’s slowly showing signs of getting back to his former self.