NEW Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted when he reads the scouting reports on six of the club’s talented teenagers currently starring at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
The Blues appear to have hit the jackpot with all four of their youth purchases from the other side of the world while two more homegrown prospects have played starring roles for England‘s Young Lions.
Chelsea ace Harvey Vale has stood out at the Under-20 World Cup for England
Many of Chelsea‘s domestic and European rivals have been amazed by the success rate of their global youth recruitment drive with the club on course to provide half of the team of the tournament.
As it moves towards its conclusion next week, we assess the performances of the Stamford Bridge hopefuls so far.
Andrey Santos (Brazil) 8/10
The box-to-box midfielder has been excellent in all three of his starts without quite putting up the astonishing numbers he did when finishing as the joint-top scorer in South America’s qualifying tournament.
His range and ability to solve problems shone through in the decisive Group D game against Nigeria when he made two key passes.
Prior to that, he was a whisker away from scoring and assisting further goals in Brazil’s 6-0 mauling of the Dominican Republic.
Despite being taken off midway through the second half of that contest, the former Vasco da Gama starlet has covered almost 32km across the group stage — the most of any Brazil player.
Gabriel Slonina (USA) 10/10
The former Chicago Fire player has been the outstanding goalkeeper in the tournament with four clean sheets from four starts for the USA.
And its not as if Slonina, who cost Chelsea an initial £8.1million fee that could rise even higher if performance-based add-ons are achieved, has had a quiet time of it behind a rock-solid defence.
He made a spectacular double save following a corner to prevent Fiji taking the lead in the States’ second group game and reprised his heroics with another key diving stop in the early moments of Tuesday’s 4-0 last-16 win over New Zealand when the game was in the balance.
Having already starred on his full international debut earlier this year, Slonina looks so comfortable and assured at this level that it almost seems unfair on the strikers he has been facing in Argentina, although greater tests are to come.
Cesare Casadei (Italy) 9/10
Lured from Lombardy to London in August 2022 for a fee worth around £13m, Casadei hit the headlines with a stellar performance against his future Blues team-mate Andrey Santos in Italy’s opening game.
The 20-year-old midfielder matched his brace against Brazil with a double against the Dominican Republic to send Italy through to the last-16 where they will face England.
Chelsea will have Brazil starlet Andrey Santos at their disposal next season
He has been revelling in a hybrid role of both a midfielder and a winger that demands a lot of energy, but allows him to make devastating late runs into the box to support the forwards.
Casadei has consequently covered an incredible 35.6km and made 190 sprints — more than any other Azzurri player.
Kendry Paez (Ecuador) 8/10
The Blues sealed a £17m deal for the 16-year-old just before the tournament got underway and nothing he has done so far has made anyone think he will not be worth that outlay.
Paez became the youngest player to score at an Under-20 World Cup last week when he burst through a gap in the Fiji defence and finished off at the near post with his less-favoured right foot.
He had almost done it in the previous game against Slovakia, but saw a snap shot strike the crossbar, having earlier laid on Ecuador’s winner with a sublime first-time cushioned pass.
Paez exudes natural ability in the way that he can beat an opponent from a standing start and every pass he made against the Slovaks reached its target with unerring accuracy.
He always shows for the ball, coming from the right-hand side to intelligently link play through the middle, but opponents will surely begin to double up on him to restrict his impact.
Chelsea goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina has impressed between the sticks for USA
Harvey Vale (England) 8/10
The former Chelsea academy star captained England to wins over Tunisia and Uruguay before the Young Lions got the point they needed against Iraq to ensure they won their group.
The source of so much of England’s attacking threat with his crosses into the box, Vale has produced an average of ten per game in Argentina.
The former Hull City loanee whipped in a superb centre for Tottenham’s Dane Scarlett to head home the winner against Tunisia and he also put a gilt-edged chance on a plate for Liam Delap against Iraq in a game where he was denied a brilliant solo goal by a good save.
Bashir Humphreys (England) 7/10
The former Blues youth team skipper has been an asset to coach Ian Foster in both attack and defence with his bullet header getting England off to a flying start in the crunch clash with Uruguay.
The 20-year-old gained experience in Germany’s second tier with Paderborn last season, but is probably the furthest away of the six from a senior breakthrough as he is some distance behind first-team left-backs Ben Chilwell and Lewis Hall.
Humphreys rarely dives in, but was caught out slightly in the move for Uruguay’s equaliser last week.