The arrival of July and of pre-season has inevitably resulted in a hive of activity at Chelsea this past week.
As it’s Friday, it’s time to take a look back at a hectic five days both at Cobham and further afield for Chelsea at all levels, particularly on the youth front.
The headline act, of course, has been the return to training of the first team squad, minus those who spent June in Poland and Ukraine at the European Championships.
A group of 20 or so senior professionals have been put through their paces by now full-time manager Roberto Di Matteo and whilst John Terry, Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and others are absent, there has been a keen sense of intrigue in the arrivals of new signings Eden Hazard and Marko Marin.
Last season’s loanees – such as Josh McEachran, Patrick van Aanholt and Yossi Benayoun – have also returned to leafy Surrey for the time being, with their immediate futures to be decided later in the month.
Whilst they await a decision, others already know their fate. Thibaut Courtois has finalised his return to Atlético Madrid for another season, whilst Gael Kakuta has told the French media that he will remain at Chelsea for the time being to see what opportunities he gets on the tour of the United States.
Tomas Kalas was present at the first day of training for Vitesse Arnhem last Sunday, but will return to England to spend some time working with Di Matteo and the first team squad before returning to the Netherlands for the 2012-13 campaign.
Kenneth Omeruo, the Nigerian defender signed from Standard Liege in January, will return to ADO Den Haag for a full season after excelling in the latter half of last year.
On domestic shores, goalkeeper Sam Walker has been linked with a loan to either Stevenage or Shrewsbury Town after proving himself a capable League One stopper with Yeovil Town in 2011-12.
The week also saw the announcement of the Great Britain football squad for the forthcoming Olympic Games. Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand were included, whilst there were also selections for former Blues Jack Cork and Scott Sinclair.
Sturridge’s participation is however in doubt after he was confirmed to have contracted viral meningitis, but there was no room for Josh McEachran, who also missed out on a place in Noel Blake’s Under-19 European Championships squad due to his potential Olympic inclusion.
Instead, he misses out on international football entirely and Chelsea’s sole representative with the Three Lions in Estonia is Nathaniel Chalobah. The defender, playing in midfield, scored an equaliser in their opening fixture against Croatia on Tuesday and is likely to feature against Serbia later today in the second Matchday of fixtures.
It’s been just as busy for Chalobah’s young team-mates on the other side of the road at Cobham, where the academy building has now been split in half in order to host a dedicated area for the Under-21 squad.
Five teenagers – Lewis Baker, Alex Davey, Adam Nditi, Nathan Aké and Anjur Osmanovic – put pen to paper on professional contracts, whilst seventeen others formally signed scholarship forms to begin their post-school life as full-time footballers.
There will, of course, be more on those seventeen in due course here on TheChels.net but having featured extensively as Under-16s, the likes of Alex Kiwomya and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are now permanent fixtures around Cobham.
The next generation is budding with talent as well, and half a dozen future scholars were confirmed to have been invited to the annual England Under-16 summer training camp ahead of the Autumn/Winter Victory Shield campaign.
Aaron Hayden returns for a second season having played against Northern Ireland a year ago, and is joined by Brad Collins, Muktar Ali, Dominic Solanke, Isaac Christie-Davies and Jake Clarke-Salter.
Chelsea, as usual, are the most represented club in the England junior ranks, and you can see just how and why by reading this excellent piece by @GazNffc on the always brilliant England Football Blog.
And, as always, you can keep right up to date with everything at Chelsea from the first team right down through the ranks here at TheChels.net and on Twitter by following our stable of accounts.