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Italy's Cesare Casadei, center, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's opening goal against Colombia during a FIFA U-20 World Cup quarterfinal soccer match at the Bicentenario stadium in San Juan, Argentina, Saturday, June 3, 2023.

Pochettino, rejoice! Chelsea’s latest wonderkid is tearing the U20 World Cup a new one

In what has been a terrible nine or ten months for Chelsea fans, a break from the pain that is football over the summer was much needed. Cesare Casadei has ruined those plans, though, in seriously exciting fashion.

There are simply no breaks on the football train, unfortunately. Terrible season? Inquests until pre-season begins again. Great season? Your side is playing all the way into June and you’re a big bag of nerves for every single big game they must now play. It’s relentless.

A 12th place finish for the Blues in the Premier League this season was, simply put, nightmare fuel. Every time fans thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. Those ‘pride of London’ shouts are very hard to back these days.

Just when they’d like to give up on the beautiful game, though, there’s a devilishly handsome bastard donning an Italy shirt down in Argentina, patrolling midfields and scoring goals for fun to help his country to the final. And while in one hand Casadei is flying the flag for Italy, he’s flying the Chelsea flag in the other, and now carrying the hopes and dreams of fans heading into the new season.

Sounds like a lot of pressure to be burdened with. It probably is. But the kid’s good. Really good.

Having only signed for the Blues from Inter last summer, Casadei had already quietly been making waves in their youth setup and is now firmly knocking on the door of the first team. Probably wise to have kept him out of that picture in his debut season, because, well, we wouldn’t want to scare him away now, would we?

This isn’t about Chelsea’s downfall, though. This is about Casadei, who is writing his own script and forcing fans to look ahead with a smile on their face.

Casadei is football’s answer to a young, up-and-coming, mid-2000s Randy Orton in every sense. Chiselled, technically excellent, physically imposing and strutting his stuff with a perfect blend of raw youth and pedigree from elsewhere. After a stellar showing at the World Cup, the stage is set for him to hotshot himself into the main event next season, given Chelsea’s current struggles.

A right-footed midfield engine, the 20-year-old uses his physicality to the best of his ability, parading from box to box with and without the ball. He’s found a cutting edge on the big stage, too, popping up with goal contributions galore for Carmine Nunziata’s young Azzurri side.

His strike in the semi-final against South Korea to open the scoring is perhaps the pick of the bunch, though. Arriving late on the edge of the box, Casadei perfectly times his run onto a high-risk pass and, with the swagger of an ex-pro giving his friends the run around at midweek five-a-side, rifles the ball into the back of the net.

That’s now seven goals for the tournament heading into the final, standing him in very strong stead to finish as the top scorer. Add into that his two assists, Casadei has weighed in with nine goal contributions for his side and can still add to that in a final.

In a season where Chelsea have looked bereft of leaders and taken no responsibility on the field, they might just have found the answer to their problems in-house.

But it’s not just the goals that make Casadei so special. The Italian, who spent the second half of this season on loan at Reading and impressed in the Championship, glides around the field and exudes composure, control, authority.

He consistently occupies a high position, often advanced in the opposition half in wide areas, looking to link play between the lines and keep the ball moving fast. It takes a strong reading of the game to be able to see it, and a strong technical ability to execute it.

Is he that ever so desired first phase midfielder who has more press resistance than I’ve had hot dinners? No. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a seriously exciting prospect. And what’s more exciting is that he could well be the beacon of hope at a new-look Chelsea under Mauricio Pochettino, a manager who has been known to enjoy working with younger talent and asks a lot of his team from a physical point of view.

It’s early days. Very early. But the first signs are promising. Casadei escaped the hellhole that was a continually collapsing Chelsea for the second half of the season, has taken the piss out of everyone put before him at the under-20 World Cup, and now looks set to return full of confidence to a squad being taken on by a manager you’d expect him to impress.

Football’s answer to mid-2000s Randy Orton might just be about to link up with his mentor. Give Chelsea some Motorhead music to walk out to at Stamford Bridge, and let them lean into the Evolution angle with everything they’ve got.


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