It’s approaching that time of the year where clubs are working to formalise their youth team intake for next season.
Part of that process is considering which overseas imports are of requisite quality and potential to add to the home-grown crop, and Chelsea have been active on that front throughout the season.
News has emerged this week that Swedish defender Ali Suljic will join up with the FA Youth Cup holders next season with a professional contract on the table upon his 17th birthday. Chelsea have reportedly beaten off interest from Europe’s finest to secure the signature of the 15 year-old centre-back, said to be amongst the very best of his generation back in Sweden.
Suljic has spent some time over at Cobham already on a trial basis and impressed sufficiently that Neil Bath and his staff extended a formal offer over the new year. Having accepted, the player will now come over to acclimatise every four weeks or so before making the jump on a permanent basis in the summer.
He becomes the latest in a succession of signings from Scandinavia and the Nordic region in the Chelsea academy, going back to Frank Arnesen’s reign as Sporting Director. Fellow Dane Morten Nielsen arrived in 2005 along with Finnish winger Tomi Saarelma.
Striker Marko Mitrovic was the first of a fleet of Swedes to arrive in sunny Surrey in 2008, followed almost annually by Amin Affane, Anjur Osmanovic and Isak Ssewankambo. Affane’s stay in Chelsea blue is likely to end this week, whilst Osmanovic too is set to depart after trialling with a second division outfit back home.
Danish prodigy Andreas Christensen is the most recent arrival and arguably the most impressive, with a rapid ascension to the Under-21 ranks and a place on the fringes of the first team squad having come to him in his first half-season after a series of highly capable performances. Suljic reportedly compares to Christensen in terms of positional versatility and playing style, and will be a strong addition to a 2013 scholarly intake which is already deep in terms of experience.
Jeremie Boga, Connor Hunte and Charlie Colkett have all made a name for themselves already this season whilst still officially schoolboys (they train on a full-time basis a year early however), whilst Charly Musonda Jr’s reputation is as high as any Under-16 in world football. They comprise the core of a group which will be smaller in size than last year’s behemoth group of nearly 20, and, as you would expect of such a well-funded and well-run academy, there is no shortage of talent.