This Feature examines the young players of African origin who look set to ensure a glittering future for Jose Mourinho’s Premier League giants.
Chelsea may have offloaded Michael Essien to AC Milan during the transfer window, but Jose Mourinho’s admiration for African talent shows no sign of abating.
Once again he has turned to the continent’s stars to furnish his second stint in the Stamford Bridge hot seat. During this window, Kurt Zouma—a French youth international, but with origins in the Central African Republic—and Mohamed Salah, the ‘Egyptian Messi’ have joined the group in west London.
This article looks into the future and projects a young and African Chelsea side.
The Nigerian forward may have been loaned out as soon as Mourinho arrived, but the Portuguese manager was complimentary enough to give hope that Moses can still have a future at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking to Sky Sports, he said of Moses: “Victor has been terrific, working very hard” and confirmed that it was the presence of numerous rivals and the desire to see the winger receive adequate playing time that prompted him to send him off to Liverpool.
However, the former Crystal Palace man has looked below par at Anfield and, on current form, would struggle to find a spot in the Chelsea first team.
Zouma is a youngster blessed with all of the physical capabilities required to be, one day, one of the world’s finest in his position. At Saint-Etienne, he has shown himself to have the technical and the mental ability to emerge as an elite defender.
Soon after breaking into the first team in the Loire, he established himself as a lynchpin for ASSE as they surged up the French table. Like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Blaise Matuidi before him, Zouma has become another top player of African origin to leave Saint-Etienne for one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
While Kenneth Omeruo may still be a mystery to Chelsea fans, Nigerians know all about the young stopper who possesses the elegance and a maturity of a much older player.
Having impressed Stephen Keshi enough while on loan in Holland, with ADO Den Haag, Omeruo now finds himself at Middlesbrough where the guidance of the likes of Aitor Karanka and Jonathan Woodgate could refine the 20-year-old’s game.
Chalobah is a highly-rated young defender who has represented England at U-16, U-17, U-19 and U-21 level. Born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he was raised in Streatham, south London, before joining the Chelsea academy in his teens.
He is a hard-working player who can provide a relentless shield in front of the defence or act as a resolute presence within the backline itself. Like Kenneth Omeruo, he is currently on loan at Middlesbrough.
Gael Kakuta is one of those unfortunate players whose narrative off the field has demanded more media attention than his exploits on it.
The winger was once named by Didier Drogba as his protégé and was rated so highly by Chelsea that the club endured an arduous voyage through the courts to clear their name following a particularly murky pursuit of the wonderkid.
They must now doubt whether it was worth it. At 22, the midfielder has represented France at every level up to the U-21s, but has only made a handful of appearances for the Pensioners, having been largely farmed out on loan.
Kakuta perhaps needs a change of scene to reignite a career that is flagging badly.
If Salah’s trajectory of the last few years is anything to go by, then Chelsea should be onto a winner. The Egyptian forward left his homeland in 2012 when Basel purchased him from El Mokawloon, that same summer that he starred in the London Olympics and seemed destined for great things.
He became a national champion at St. Jakob-Park and was also named as the Swiss Super League’s Player of the Year in 2013. Since leaving Africa, Salah has starred in the Europa League and also sampled life in the Champions League.
He is a fine and potentially outstanding player, but can he buck the trend for Egyptian failures in Europe, and, more immediately, can he find a place in the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge?
Few would doubt Christian Atsu’s ability, but his acquisition by Chelsea seems more down to Roman Abramovich’s burning desire to capture the finest of the world’s young talent, rather than any weakness in the current squad.
Atsu, like Salah, has been heralded as his nation’s Leo Messi but, to date, he has struggled to influence fixtures quite like the diminutive Argentine superstar.
The winger thrived in Portugal, with Rio Ave and FC Porto, but upon arrival at Chelsea, was immediately cast off, on loan, to Vitesse Arnhem.
Like Kakuta and Atsu, Bertrand Traore finds himself at Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem as he begins to adapt to life as a first team player in a European league.
His final arrival at Chelsea was long-awaited—he initially joined the club almost three-and-a-half years ago when he signed for the academy.
It will be fascinating to see how Traore develops. He has already made almost a dozen appearances for the Burkina Faso national side and was part of the 2012 AFCON squad. If he can emulate his elder brother Alain for the Stallions, Chelsea will be glad they were so patient.
Despite their impressive victory away at Manchester City, Chelsea still look to be one outstanding striker away from being a superb, complete team. This would be forgivable if they didn’t have Romelu Lukaku, such a powerful, explosive presence, out on loan.
Lukaku has long-been touted as the successor to Didier Drogba, both in style and , and it was little surprise when the Blues splashed out to recruit him in 2011.
Having torn up the record books in Belgium as a prodigious man child, there was always the fear, or the possibility, that Lukaku might be flattering to deceive and might struggle to bring his myriad of talents to the elite end of competition.
To date, he has quashed any such concerns and looks on course to be one of the finest forwards of his generation. The only question is whether it will be Chelsea who benefit.