Where are they now? Chelsea’s 14 wonderkids from FM 2012

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Romelu Lukaku playing for Chelsea in the Premier League. Stamford Bridge, London, August 2013.

Chelsea had a weird year in 2012, sacking two managers but winning the Champions League. In their academy, though, there was a steady stream of talent and we’ve had a look back at the 14 Football Manager wonderkids from that year’s edition of the game.

The 2011-12 season was a rollercoaster of emotions for Chelsea fans but one that ultimately ended in elation when the club won their first European Cup in dramatic fashion against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.

It was a Chelsea team packed with superstars and club heroes, from Didier Drogba to John Terry and Frank Lampard, but as ever with Chelsea’s almost factory-like youth system, there was plenty of emerging talent too.

We thought we’d look back 10 years ago to see what became of Chelsea’s 14 wonderkids (via FM Scout) from FM 2012 – which was released just over a decade ago.

Thibaut Courtois

Not much needs to be said about the Belgian No.1, who joined Chelsea in the summer of 2011 from Belgian side Genk for a reported £10m.

Then just 19, he was loaned out straight away to Atletico Madrid where he would stay for four seasons until he returned to challenge Petr Cech for the No.1 jersey. He won that battle and went on to lift two Premier League titles with the Blues before returning to the Spanish capital, signing for Real Madrid in 2018.

His career after can only be considered successful, but glory with Belgium and in the Champions League still eludes him. For now, at least.

READ: Nine of Real Madrid’s best bargain signings since 2010: Varane, Ozil, Courtois…

Matej Delac

Arriving from Croatian side Inter Zapresic, Delac was another young goalkeeper on Chelsea’s books. But unlike Cortouis, he would never be given his chance in a Chelsea jersey.

Delac fell into the same pattern as many who come through Chelsea’s ranks, eternally on loan. In eight years, Delac went on loan nine times including a return to his boyhood club, but couldn’t find a more permanent home.

When his contract expired with Chelsea in 2018, he signed for Danish side AC Horsens, becoming their first-choice keeper.

Jeffrey Bruma

Unlike plenty on this list, Bruma did make some appearances for Chelsea. After joining Chelsea from Feyenoord as a youth player in 2007, Bruma played four times for the club after making his debut in 2009 at the age of 17, but he could never nail down a place in the squad.

The defender was eventually sent out on loan to Leicester in February 2011 before spending the next two seasons in Germany with Hamburg.

Eventually, PSV came calling for the Dutchman, who returned to his native Netherlands permanently when he signed for the Eindhoven club in 2013 with Chelsea inserting a buy-back clause they never used.

A less successful move to Wolfsburg then followed in 2016, and he joined Turkish side Kasimpasa last summer.

Tomas Kalas

Czech defender Kalas is one of the few players on this list still in England. The centre-back spent every season on loan except for 2013-14 when Jose Mourinho kept him in the Blues squad for the year, famously calling upon him in the iconic ‘Demba Ba game’ that scuppered Liverpool’s title hopes that year.

He made three other appearances, but said of his role on a Czech TV show that he was “A player for the training sessions. If they need a cone they put me there instead.”

Kalas eventually ended up at Bristol City on loan where he became a much-loved figure, moving there permanently in 2019. He is now club captain.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers speak on the touchline, Anfield, Liverpool, April 27 2014

READ: Where are they now? Chelsea’s XI from the ‘Gerrard slip’ win at Anfield

Nathan Ake

It’s easy to forget that Nathan Ake was once a Chelsea player, but there was a time when he was on the edge of breaking through to the first team.

The Dutchman joined Chelsea at 15 and made a few appearances for the London side, being named Young Player of the season in 2013.

But after that promising start, Ake couldn’t quite hold down a permanent role, beginning to be loaned out in 2015 before becoming Bournemouth’s record ever signing in 2017.

He went on to make over 100 appearances for the Cherries before leaving for City when the south-coast side was relegated where he has struggled to hold down a starting spot.

Nathaniel Chalobah

Trevoh Chalobah has broken through this season under Thomas Tuchel and become an instant fan favourite. Older brother Nathaniel never quite managed that, having been sent out on a series of loans before eventually signing for Watford in 2017.

After struggling with injuries in his first couple of years at Vicarage Road, Chalobah helped the Hornets go up last season before signing for freshly-relegated Fulham, where he’s earned another promotion but only made 10 leagues starts.

Patrick van Aanholt

Another young Dutch player on Chelsea’s books, Van Aanholt never broke through at Chelsea and after several loans ended up at Sunderland in 2014 on a permanent deal.

There the left-back showed he was more than capable of being a first-team starter in the Premier League and occasionally popped up with a goal throughout his time at the Stadium of Light.

In January 2017 he joined Crystal Palace after his former Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce had brought him in. He maintained his starting sport under Roy Hodgson at Selhurst Park and left at the same time the veteran coach did, signing for Galatasary on a free in summer 2021.

Oriol Romeu

If ‘Chelsea players who have made over 20 appearances in the 21st century’ was ever a Pointless question, Romeu would be as good a bet as any at being a pointless answer.

The Spaniard came from Barcelona’s academy in 2011 and was thrust right into the first team, notching up a decent number of appearances over two seasons but never truly breaking through. He was sent on loan to Valencia in 2013 and would never play for the Blues again.

In 2015 he signed for Southampton where he remains.

Josh McEachran

Josh McEachran was expected to break through to the first team around the 2011-12 season, a Chelsea youth product and Young Player of the Season in 2011 but injuries and managerial changes meant it never quite happened for him, swept up into the cycle of loans.

Now after a period out as a free agent the 28-year-old is a regular for MK Dons.

READ: Where are they now? Chelsea’s last 10 Young Player of the Year winners

Jacob Mellis

Mellis’ story is an interesting one, being released by Chelsea in 2012 after admitting to setting off a smoke bomb at Cobham which caused a full evacuation of the training centre.

From then he has ping-ponged between different lower league clubs in England, including five since 2020. He is now a free agent after a spell at Isthmian Premier Division side Leatherhead.

Connor Clifford

Irishman Clifford was a perennial loanee at Chelsea, never making more than 10 appearances at the five clubs he went on loan at.

After travelling through the lower leagues in England, Clifford returned to his native Ireland where he now plays in the League of Ireland First Division with Bray Wanderers.

Gael Kakuta

A product of the Lens Youth system, Kakuta is the definition of a journeyman. Joining Chelsea in 2007 as a youth player, the Congolese man went to six different clubs in five countries on loan whilst at Stamford Bridge.

After moving to Sevilla for free in 2015, he played for a further five clubs before returning finally to Lens permanently this summer.

Kevin De Bruyne

God, whatever happened to him?

READ: Pinpointing the moment Kevin De Bruyne decided to become a magician

Romelu Lukaku

*Copy* *Paste* God, Whatever happened to him?

In fact, Chelsea fans would probably rather we didn’t ask.

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