10 Chelsea Rejects Who Deserved More of a Chance at Stamford Bridge Before Being Sold

As John Terry strolled out of the Stamford Bridge exit doors this summer, Chelsea’s most recent academy success story officially became a piece of history. 

If you looked at the club’s recent performance in youth competition – 12 trophies since 2010 – you’d be forgiven for questioning why the last, genuine, first-team academy graduate debuted in 1997.

There’s no doubt that the path to the Chelsea first-team is rockier than ever before, yet reports that the club are targeting Leicester City’s Danny Drinkwater, after selling and loaning some of their own talents, bring their recruitment strategy into question. 

Here are ten Chelsea ‘rejects’ that deserved more of a chance with the first team.

1. Nathaniel Chalobah

Aston Villa v Watford - Pre Season Friendly

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 10 

The man that will look at the Drinkwater rumours with most frustration is Nathaniel Chalobah. 

The promising central midfielder joined Chelsea at the age of ten, and regularly captained the youth sides, as he progressed through the academy. 

The years of loan moves suddenly seemed to pay off, as Chalobah was part of last season’s Premier League winning squad with the Chelsea senior team. However, that hope and promise was quickly thrown away as he was sold to Watford for a mere £5m. 

Whilst it was time for Chalobah to move on for the sake of his own career, Chelsea may regret letting a ready-made midfield option go so quickly. 

2. Nathan Aké

AFC Bournemouth v Valencia CF - Pre Season Friendly

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 7 

Nathan Aké has been a footballing yo-yo for Chelsea in the last couple of years, but has finally made the permanent move out of Stamford Bridge in a £20m switch to Bournemouth.

Widely regarded as one of the best talents within the Chelsea youth setup, Aké quickly made the transition from prospect to proven after two successful Premier League loans with Watford and Bournemouth. 

Chelsea recalled the Dutch international in January last year but, despite putting in a phenomenal performance in the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, he still found himself as a sellable asset this summer. 

3. Josh McEachran

Chelsea v Brentford - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 11

Back in 2010, Josh McEachran was to Chelsea what Jack Wilshere was to Arsenal, a young tricky central midfield player that could be their next big star. He had the backing and trust of Carlo Ancelotti and made 17 appearances in all competitions in the 2010/11 season.

Unfortunately, the deep-lying midfielder was then frozen out by new manager Andre Villas-Boas and joined the conveyor belt of Chelsea talent out on loan. 

He never lived up to his early potential and is now plying his trade in the Championship with Brentford. 

4. Kevin de Bruyne

Belgium v Czech Republic - International Friendly

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 3

If the phrase ‘the one that got away’ was ever appropriate, now is the time. There wasn’t a single Chelsea fan that didn’t wince, as Manchester City bought their former talent for £55m. 

Originally an £8m acquisition from Belgian side Genk, De Bruyne never truly won over Chelsea boss José Mourinho (not the first person who can say that) and was shipped off to Wolfsburg in the 2014 January window.

Chelsea’s mistake became ever-more apparent as De Bruyne won the 2015 German Player of the Year, moved to rivals Manchester City and became one of the Premier League’s best players. 

5. Ryan Bertrand

Scotland v England - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 28 

You would be forgiven for questioning why a player that started in a Champions League final would find himself on this list. However, the ignition of Ryan Bertrand’s career was that unconventional.

The Southampton left-back famously played at left-wing in the historic 2012 victory over Bayern Munich but, despite making 19 Premier League appearances the following season, he was never considered as a suitable replacement for Ashley Cole. 

Ironically, the Blues are now rumoured to be looking at Bertrand this summer, but it will cost them close to £30m to prise the star away from the Saints.   

6. Bertrand Traore

FBL-SCO-FRA-CELTIC-LYON

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 10

From one Bertrand to another, the story of Bertrand Traore. The Burkina Faso international had a complicated start to life at Chelsea, due to work permit and contractual issues, and it was unclear as to whether the winger would ever play for the club. 

After a successful year with Vitesse Arnhem, Traore gained his work permit and became a part of Chelsea’s first-team squad. Despite the abysmal season that the Blues endured, Traore impressed in his cameos and scored two goals in ten league appearances. 

A positive loan with Ajax last season attracted the interest of Lyon, and Traore was sold to the French side for £8.8m.  

7. Lucas Piazon

Fulham v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 1

Potentially the least well-known player on this list, Lucas Piazon is still technically on the books at Chelsea. The 23-year-old was compared to Kaka when he arrived in London from São Paulo, and was a gem in the Blues’ academy, winning their Young Player of the Year award in 2012.

Piazon’s solitary Premier League appearance came in the 8-0 drubbing of Aston Villa in the 2012/13 season. Appearing as a substitute, Piazon made an assist and looked impressive on the ball. 

A late missed penalty, however, was the last action of his Chelsea career as he was banished to the loan system and temporary moves to Malaga, Reading and Fulham. 

8. Romelu Lukaku

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Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 10

Just as with De Bruyne, this one is going to sting. When Romelu Lukaku joined Chelsea in 2011, it seemed like a match made in heaven. He was a boyhood Blues fans, Didier Drogba was his idol, and his will to succeed was blatant. 

A lack of first-team chances saw Lukaku embark on two prolific Premier League loans to West Brom and Everton respectively. 32 goals in two seasons thrust the Belgian into José Mourinho’s mindset, but a missed penalty in the Super Cup final and a poor attitude in pre-season ensured that their rapport didn’t last long, and Lukaku left for Everton. 

On can only wonder whether those two ever made up.

9. Dominic Solanke

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Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 0

We haven’t even left pre-season yet and this one seems like another Chelsea mistake. Along with Tammy Abraham, Dominic Solanke has scored a large proportion of the Blues’ academy goals in the last few years – 65 in 85 appearances to be exact. 

His stock rose in this summer’s England Under-20 World Cup win – as the striker won Golden Ball for the best player – but his Chelsea fate was sealed due to a contract dispute, he was out the door. 

Liverpool snapped the 19-year-old up, and he has hit the ground running with two pre-season goals.

10. Patrick van Aanholt

FBL-ENG-PR-CRYSTAL PALACE-HULL

Premier League appearances for Chelsea: 2

Whilst now an experienced Premier League regular, Van Aanholt was a consistent fixture on the Chelsea loan list from 2009 to 2014.

 The Netherlands international finally left Stamford Bridge permanently in 2014, moving to Sunderland for £1.5m. Three years on Wearside rose the left-back’s stock considerably, and he was bought by Crystal Palace for £14m.

Few people would consider Van Aanholt as ‘Chelsea-standard’, mainly due to his defensive frailties, but under the right guidance he could have been moulded into the complete wing-back. 

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