19 years ago a young English centre back took the field as a second half substitute in a League Cup tie against Aston Villa. Everything that has taken place since is as they say history. John Terry has been a stalwart of the club since he joined at the age of 14. Terry subsequently cemented his place in the starting XI before Jose Mourinho’s arrival at the club in 2004 marked the beginning of his long tenure as captain. Now, 19 years later he bids farewell to his home. In this time many academy graduates and young talent have tried to establish themselves as ‘the next John Terry’ trying to cement themselves as the next youngster to make the step up and become a main stay of the first team. Every candidate has been not been deemed good enough with no one able to make a significant contribution but with John Terry stepping away, there is a spotlight on the Stamford Bridge outfit to try and integrate another academy graduate in their first team. I take a look at the possible nominee’s that could finally step in and make their mark.
Nathan Aké had slipped under the radar for much of the past few seasons but has quickly emerged as a favorite under Antonio Conte. Aké agreed to join the Chelsea youth system from Feyenoord in late 2010 at the age of just 15. He had played at Feyenoord since the age of 12 after joining the club from ADO Den Haag.
The versatile defender was recalled from his impressive loan at Bournemouth in January with Conte stating he would require his versatility in defense slotting anywhere across Conte’s favored back five and midfield and replace the outgoing Branislav Ivanovic. The 22 year old Dutchman was having an impressive season under Eddie Howe at the centre of defense scoring 3 goals. Aké has held firm mentally and was rewarded with a start in the F.A Cup semi final against Tottenham Hotspur and did not do his chances any harm to establish himself as the first choice backup or even a starter.
“Ake is a really good example. He is a good player, very young but with a good personality. He can play as a central defender, in the middle or on the left, he could play as a wing-back. It’s important now to work with us.” – Antonio Conte (Samuel Lovett (Independent, 2017))
Nathan Aké seems to have leapfrogged the rest of his peers and looks set to play a key role next season in the Chelsea first team.
Andreas Christensen is a player that has excelled as part of Chelsea’s extensive loan system. Having been sent on loan to Bundesliga side, Borussia Monchengladbach for two-years, the young centre has established himself as a key player for the German club where he has won many man of the match awards as well being voted Borussia Monchengladbach Player of the Season in his debut season. Born in Blovstrød, Denmark, he began his career with Brøndby IF, where he spent eight years plying his trade. He signed for Chelsea in February 2012 on a free transfer after attracting interest from elite clubs around Europe including Arsenal and Bayern Munich.
His strength lies with the ball at his feet. His composure on the ball resembles that of John Terry, who also possesses an array of passing options at his disposal. His debut season saw his pass completion rate average out to 87%, which was more than former Borussia Dortmund centre bank – Mats Hummels. John Terry himself has heaped massive praise on the young Danish centre back:
“I’ve always told [him] that he should chase me and knock me off the team,” he told TV2 Sporten. “He should be hungry to take my place. Believe me, I am sure that he will be a top footballer and one of the future men for Chelsea.” – Heneage, 2016 (Four Four Two)
Many believe the defender is John Terry’s natural heir in the heart of Chelsea’s defense. His return to Chelsea next season should see him stay as part of the first team squad with Conte’s keen to work with the Danish defender and give him the chance he deserves.
Jake Clarke-Salter joined Chelsea at the tender age of nine and has developed into an exceptional player having played and captained different youth teams and recently led them to a third successive F.A Youth Cup.
The talented English centre back is a natural born leader, a vocal lad, giving out instructions and encouragement to his team-mates thus bettering his reading of the game. Comparisons to the skipper of the first team are natural. John Terry helped guide Cesar Azpilicueta at left-back and nurturing the young Kurt Zouma beside him. Terry was a master of his craft not only because of excellent reading but his leadership qualities. The legendary skipper John Terry has commented on the young centre back:
“Jake has a great attitude,” Terry said. “I remember watching him a couple of years ago being in control of the game and a really vocal player. He reminds me a bit of myself. “[Jake] is doing great and I hope he goes on to take my position and get in the first team. It was great for him to make his debut.” – Hall, 2017 (SkySports)