We’ve had a few years of fun with the Chelsea academy, but this past week has been rough.
Marc Guehi is about to be sold to Crystal Palace after snubbing a new deal. Valentino Livramento, Lewis Bate and Myles Peart-Harris have all rejected extensions, and Dynel Simeu was happy to let his contract expire.
All of a sudden, that pathway back to the first team appears to have been closed again, but fortunately, at least one youngster still believes he has a shot at making it at Stamford Bridge as the club have confirmed that 19-year-old striker Armando Broja has put pen to paper on a new five-year contract.
“I am really excited to be signing a new contract with Chelsea,” Broja said. “Having come through the academy here it was a special moment for me to make my first-team debut last year, before gaining further experience on loan at Vitesse last season.
“I want to build on these foundations and I am really looking forward to progressing and making an impact at Chelsea in the years to come.”
Broja has handed Chelsea the perfect chance to prove that the path from academy to first team is still there. He’s a young player who is obviously keen to play for Chelsea, and fortunately, for the Blues, he’s quite good.
With ten goals on loan with Vitesse last season, Broja was the highest-scoring teenager in Europe’s top ten leagues. He made a real impact on loan at the same side which gave Mason Mount his first break in the senior game a few years ago.
A powerful goalscorer, Broja showed the knack for finding the back of the net that wasn’t always on show at Chelsea last year (Tammy Abraham aside), and while there’s no denying that there’s a hefty gulf in quality between the two leagues, his accomplishments should not be ignored.
Broja proved that he is capable of playing at a Premier League level, and while a loan to a lesser side for guaranteed minutes could be a smart move, Thomas Tuchel should look to give Broja some playing time at Stamford Bridge next year.
There’s an obvious opening in the squad following the departure of Olivier Giroud to AC Milan, and Abraham’s likely exit will leave Chelsea without a recognised striker. We know the Blues are looking for a new starter – 90min were first to reveal the imminent bid for Erling Haaland – but they could also need a backup, and that’s where Broja comes in.
There will be plenty of minutes on offer for whoever does end up being the second-choice striker, and if it’s Broja who gets that role, he would learn far more than on another loan away from the club, and he’s good enough to justify his inclusion with a goal or two along the way.
Thomas Tuchel is clearly attentive to the teenager. He was given 45 minutes in the first pre-season friendly – the 6-1 win over Peterborough – and made his mark with a goal, an assist and two strikes which were ruled out for offside.
Finding the delicate balance needing for academy progression has been impossible for Chelsea. Obviously, not every youngster can make the cut, but there needs to be a happy medium. The Blues can’t start haemorrhaging prospects again.
Broja can prove that the opportunities will come to any youngster who earns them. He deserves a shot, and Tuchel is clearly open to the idea of giving him that. Just give the Albanian one foot in the door and you won’t be disappointed with the results.