An excellent XI of academy graduates Chelsea let go: Nketiah, Brewster…

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In one of the more surprising attempts at public reinvention in living memory, Roman Abramovich’s big-spending Chelsea have portrayed themselves as a hotbed for homegrown talent.

To an extent, this is true. A quick look at Chelsea’s current first-team squad indicates a healthy quota of academy graduates are at manager Frank Lampard’s disposal.

At the same time, their ‘buy them young and loan them to Vitesse for all of eternity’ policy has inevitably meant some significant wastage. While some have fallen away from football altogether, others have managed to carve promising careers throughout Europe’s top leagues.

Here, we’ve compiled an XI of the best Chelsea academy players still playing elsewhere today, arranged in a 4-4-2  formation.

Neil Etheridge

This inclusion bends the rules slightly, but bear with us.

Having joined the Chelsea academy in 2003, Etheridge left the club three years later to sign professional terms with Fulham. After a nomadic career throughout the Football League, the Philippines international goalkeeper found his home at Cardiff City and was a key player during their promotion in 2018.

Somehow, he’s still only 30 years old, despite having played football since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

READ: Neil Etheridge: I nearly blew my career after Fulham and had to sell my house 

Tariq Lamptey

Having found Reece James blocking his progress, Lamptey left Stamford Bridge for Brighton in January 2020.

With a disarmingly boyish smile and pace to burn, the young right-back has made a significant impression on the south coast. This has included contributing an assist against his former club and making Newcastle appear like a side managed by Steve Bruce.

Lamptey undoubtedly has a promising future ahead of him, which is lucky as England need another right-back.

Nathan Ake

The versatile defender made seven appearances for Chelsea before being sold to Bournemouth in 2017 after a successful loan spell with the Cherries.

His performances for Bournemouth and the Dutch national team have resulted in Ake moving to Manchester City for a reported fee of £41million in 2020.

Ake has claimed he sees himself as a defensive midfielder in the future, demonstrating the kind of versatility that makes him a shoo-in for this team.

Jeffrey Bruma

Having joined Chelsea as a 15-year-old for £100,000 back in 2007, Bruma spent six years on the club’s books but made a total of just four Premier League appearances amid loans to Leicester and Hamburg, eventually returning to the Netherlands to play for PSV in 2013.

The defender won back-to-back Eredivisie titles with the club in 2015 and 2016 and became a regular for the Netherlands, although he hasn’t quite maintained his form since a transfer to Wolfsburg in 2016.

Ryan Bertrand

Ryan Bertrand’s time at Chelsea coincided to no fewer than nine different loan moves away, although he did get opportunities in the 2011-12 season and even started the 2012 Champions League final out on the left wing.

After impressing at Southampton during the 2014-15 season, he signed for the club on a permanent deal and has since become a consistent Premier League performer down on the south coast, making over 200 appearances for Saints.

READ: Where are they now? Chelsea’s Champions League winners of 2012

Bertrand Traore

The right-sided attacker is now back in the Premier League, having signed for Aston Villa for a fee believed to be in the region of £17million – roughly double what Lyon originally paid when they signed him from Chelsea in 2014.

Traore scored 33 goals in three seasons with the Ligue 1 club and arrives back in back in England a better player than the one that left.

Declan Rice

Reportedly one of their top targets, Chelsea might have saved themselves a lot of time and money by not releasing Declan Rice at the age of 14.

Chelsea’s loss was West Ham’s gain, and it’s been a rapid rise for the England international. It’s easy to forget he’s still just 21 years old, given he’s already got a century of Premier League appearances under his belt.

Jamal Musiala

Musiala returned to the country of his birth when he left Chelsea to join Bayern Munich last summer.

He’s represented both England and Germany and youth level and has a huge reputation. The 2020-21 campaign could be a big one for the 17-year-old, who’s already starting to break through at Hansi Flick’s treble winners.

Already the club’s youngest-ever debutant, he beat Roque Santa Cruz to become their youngest goalscorer, coming off the bench to cap off their 8-0 win over Schalke on the opening weekend.

Jeremie Boga

The Marseille-born winger was another snapped up as a youngster by Chelsea, arriving in London as an 11-year-old back in 2008.

His Chelsea career amounted to 18 first-team minutes. Having been a surprise name in the XI for the first match of the 2017-18 campaign, against Burnley, he was withdrawn after Gary Cahill’s early dismissal and never seen again in a Blue shirt.

He’s since found his feet after moving to Sassuolo for £3.5million in 2018 and consistently features highly in the dribbling charts for players in Europe’s top five leagues.

Rhian Brewster

Reportedly on the verge of returning to London in a £25million move to Crystal Palace, Brewster has established himself as one of England’s hottest prospects at Liverpool, having joined from Chelsea as a 15-year-old.

He finished top scorer in the tournament as England’s Under-17s won the 2017 World Cup and has gradually increased his stock since then. Though first-team opportunities have been hard to come by at Anfield, he showed he can do it at senior level with 11 goals in 22 appearances on loan at Swansea last term.

Eddie Nketiah

The Arsenal striker, who has been remarkably prolific in front of goal at various youth levels for England, was released by Chelsea in 2015 after seven years in their academy.

Onwards and upwards, he went on to join Arsenal and has since broken through to become an important member of Mikel Arteta’s first-team squad.

A loan move to Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United didn’t quite work out as planned last year, recalled in January after being unable to usurp Patrick Bamford in their first XI, but he scored some important goals off the bench and will be fondly by their fans for the role he played in their promotion-winning season.

READ: Eddie Nketiah is so scary in front of goal he turned a keeper into a ghost

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