Last summer, Premier League clubs agreed to bring forward their academy scholarship decisions from March to December so as to allow those players being released sufficient time to make alternative plans for the next steps in their careers.
Consequently, those same clubs now have considerably more time to focus their efforts on supplementing their home-grown intake with the best players from elsewhere. Chelsea have long since been proponents of doing just that; adding one or two players of considerable promise to a group otherwise developed in-house from the age of eight, and the first few months of 2018 have produced results.
News broke in January of their intention to bring Austrian Under-17 international Thierno Ballo over; as he turned 16 during an open transfer window he was eligible to make the move, but international clearance issues have thus far delayed any pre-scholarship involvement.
That was followed this week by the news that Crewe Alexandra striker George Nunn had put pen to paper on a deal that will net the League Two club £300,000 up front, with the potential for that sum to rise based on his development. Nunn has scored 24 goals at Under-16 level this season, including one on his Blues debut in a 9-3 win over QPR this past weekend, and also netted twice in his maiden Under-18 appearance against Nottingham Forest earlier this season.
With the dust settling on that deal, the apparent arrival of Dutch forward Jayden Braaf came to attention. An international at Under-15 and Under-16 level, the PSV youngster is a dynamic physical talent who can operate wide or in a central role, and although the deal is not yet finalised, the player’s family have reportedly privately confirmed that he will move to London this summer. His 16th birthday falls on August 31st – the last possible day of eligibility for his age group in England – so formal confirmation could be delayed, but he will likely be wearing blue next season.
Ballo, Nunn and Braaf will each take their place in a group of just more than a dozen first-year scholars who officially begin their full-time work at the academy in July. Full details on each and every one of them will be available here at TheChels as always.