Chelsea are renowned for their youth talent spotting, and though they are equally known for loaning lots of these players out rather than making use of them themselves, that has started to change.
Recent years have seen some of their academy graduates make the step-up to the first team, or make the grade elsewhere. Which should give hope to their latest crop of young starlets looking to break through.
Here’s how their seven previous Academy Players of the Year have fared since earning the honour.
2015: Dominic Solanke
The striker was awarded the inaugural Chelsea Academy Player of the Year award after scoring 41 goals during the 2014-15 season, when he also made his debut for the first team as a late substitute in a 6-0 win over Maribor in the Champions League.
He spent the next season on loan at Vitesse and finished as their third-highest goalscorer with seven goals from 25 games, returning to Stamford Bridge to fight for a place in 2016-17 only to fail to make a single first-team appearance all season.
He joined Liverpool at the end of his contract in 2017 but scored only once in 27 games before somehow being sold to Bournemouth for a reported £19million.
Solanke scored just three goals in 42 Premier League appearances for the Cherries, but seems to have found his feet since their relegation, registering 15 goals and eight assists in the Championship as they finished sixth in 2020-21.
2016: Fikayo Tomori
Tomori won the award after scoring in the Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League final wins in 2015-16, making his first-team debut as a 60th-minute substitute in the final game of that season.
He didn’t play again for the first team in the first half of the following campaign and so joined Brighton in January 2017, making 10 appearances, before consecutive season-long loan spells at Hull and Derby.
The second of those was particularly productive under Frank Lampard, and when the Chelsea legend returned to Stamford Bridge as manager in 2019, he decided to keep Tomori around, with the defender scoring twice in 22 appearances in 2019-20.
However, Tomori seemed to fall down the pecking order following the arrival of Thiago Silva last summer, and he was subsequently loaned out to AC Milan for the latter half of the 2020-21 campaign. A £25million permanent transfer is reportedly imminent.
2017: Mason Mount
Mount captained the Youth Cup side to a fourth consecutive success in 2017 and finished a fantastic season by setting up England’s winner in the Under-19 European Championship, where he was named the tournament’s best player.
He joined Vitesse on loan that summer and scored an outstanding 14 goals, helping them qualify for the Europa League, being named their Player of the Season and even being invited to train with the England senior squad.
Like Tomori, he then spent 2018-19 on loan at Lampard’s Derby, contributing a combined 16 goals and assists before returning to Stamford Bridge to sign a new five-year contract and then enjoying a hugely impressive breakthrough campaign with the Blues.
His second season in Chelsea’s first-team ended with him setting up the match-winner in a Champions League final. Not bad going.
CHELSEA LEAD! 🔵
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 29, 2021
2018: Reece James
James won the award after captaining the Under-18s to yet another Youth Cup triumph in 2017-18, signing a four-year contract that summer and then joining Wigan on loan for the season.
He impressed so much at the DW Stadium that he won the Fans’ Player of the Year award with 96% of the votes, as well as the Players’ Player of the Year and Goal of the Season awards, scoring three goals from 46 appearances in total at either right-back or in central midfield.
He was also named in the Championship Team of the Season and so was unsurprisingly kept around by Lampard for the 2019-20 campaign in which he made 37 appearances in all competitions, becoming the club’s youngest-ever Champions League goalscorer when completing their comeback in a 4-4 draw against Ajax.
In January 2020, he signed a long-term contract extension to commit his future to the club. Like Mount, he ended his second season with the Blues with an outstanding performance in a Champions League final victory.
2019: Conor Gallagher
Gallagher is still waiting for his first-team debut at Chelsea, but the midfielder made a big impression on loan at Charlton in the first half of 2019-20, scoring six times from midfield, before doing similarly well in the second half of the season at Swansea.
Such performances earned Gallagher an opportunity in the Premier League, with a loan to newly-promoted West Brom. He registered two goals and two assists, with some bright performances, but couldn’t stop the Baggies from getting relegated. You’d imagine another loan beckons next term.
2020: Billy Gilmour
Since establishing himself as one to watch in the youth set-up, the Scottish Iniesta seems to have taken on Marcus Rashford’s knack for shining on his senior debuts.
Gilmour is yet to play tons of minutes, and hasn’t really gotten a look-in under Thomas Tuchel, but he’s been superb in almost every opportunity he’s been given.
Named Man of the Match on his full Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League debuts for the Blues, he followed that up with the same honour in his first international start for Scotland. He looked the best player on the pitch in their Euro 2020 0-0 draw with England at Wembley, which has earned him the status of Andy Murray’s idol.
2021: Valentino Livramento
Croydon-born England Under-20 international Livramento, who is also eligible to represent Italy due to his heritage, is the latest recipient of the award.
The right-back played over 2000 minutes of academy football for the Blues in 2020-21, and registered two goals and six assists for the Under-23s as they finished runner-up to Manchester City in the Premier League 2.
He’s yet to make his senior debut, but it can’t be too far away for the 18-year-old, either for his parent club or out on loan next term.