IT’S all been about the kids at Chelsea over recent years ever since Frank Lampard promoted a host of them during his time in charge.
Chelsea’s old boss Frank Lampard was not afraid to give youth a chance at Stamford Bridge[/caption]
But this is a club who have also been known for nabbing and nurturing some of English football’s finest, only for them to fail to make the grade.
SunSport takes a look back at seven of the most memorable boy wonders who shone bright early on before burning out.
The name will remain synonymous with off-field controversy at Stamford Bridge, but Kakuta was once the brightest young thing at the club.
Chelsea were hit with a 16-month transfer ban by Fifa in 2009 for allegedly inducing Kakuta to break his contract with French club Lens in 2007.
The move appeared to be worth it as Kakuta won Academy Player of the Year, finished top scorer for the youth side and won the U19 European Championship with France.
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When he made his first-team debut in 2009 after a four-month ban from Fifa, a Mail on Sunday article was headlined: “Chelsea’s new wonder boy worth all the fuss.”
A decade later, Kakuta signed with French club Amiens in what is the 13th professional club of his career and after impressing there the now-30-year-old has returned to Lens after impressing on loan there.
He went out on loan to six clubs during six years with Chelsea’s first-team before eventually moving on to Sevilla.
There were a couple of years in China and a return to Spain before switching to France.
Embarrassingly, Kakuta was embroiled in a court case in 2014 when a broke former footballer masqueraded as him to fund a luxury lifestyle.
Medi Abalimba was jailed after racking up huge bills in hotels and nightclubs pretending to be the ex-Chelsea star.
Back in 2010, a 17-year-old McEachran emerged as the brightest young talent in the Chelsea academy.
McEachran was expected to evolve from starlet to star at Chelsea and, in turn, be the successor to Lampard’s crown in midfield.
Then England U21s boss Stuart Pearce said: “He’s got a really outstanding talent, similar to Jack Wilshere, and it bodes well for England.
“If Josh and Jack were wearing Spanish shirts, you would revere them.”
The arrival of Andre Villas-Boas to Stamford Bridge in 2011 brought an end to McEachran’s progression and he sought opportunities on loan.
He was sent out to five clubs in three years, from Watford to Wigan, but struggled to settle at any.
In 2015, he broke free of Chelsea’s loan army and joined Brentford on a permanent deal, a move which had highs and lows until his release in the summer of 2019.
McEachran, now 28, went on to join Birmingham City but only played eight Championship matches before signing for MK Dons on a free in March.
The repercussions of Traore’s move to Chelsea in 2013 were felt at Stamford Bridge during Lampard’s reign.
Lampard’s inability to make any signings upon taking over was due to the Blues being slapped with a transfer ban linked to Traore’s arrival back in 2013.
His move to Chelsea was one of the key components in Fifa’s evidence as part of an investigation into the club’s signing of foreign players under the age of 18.
Fifa said it found breaches in 29 cases out of the 92 investigated.
In the end, Traore played just 16 times for Chelsea and departed for Lyon in an £8.8m move in 2017.
And in France, he impressed scoring 21 goals in 87 games for the club.
His return to form earned Traore, 26, a move back to the Premier League with Aston Villa in 2020.
When a 16-year-old Rajkovic signed for Chelsea in 2005, it was seen as a giant coup.
The centre-back, tipped to succeed John Terry in defence, had spent the previous summer at Arsenal’s youth camp.
The majority of Europe’s big beasts were looking to sign the talented defender, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Inter Milan and Monaco.
A work permit stalled Rajkovic’s progression at Chelsea so he was sent to Holland on loan, to PSV, Twente and then Vitesse Arnhem.
Villas-Boas gave the Serbian centre-back his first start for Chelsea, in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Wycombe Wanderers in 2011.
The same year Rajkovic was sold to Hamburg in a £1.8m deal.
His career never really ignited, making just 42 appearances for the German side in four years.
Rajkovic spent three years with Italian club Palermo but was released after they finished bottom of Serie B.
The boy once wanted by all briefly plied his trade in Russia with FC Lokomotiv Moscow but he his contract was terminated earlier this year by mutual consent.
He is now playing back in his homeland for TSC Bačka Topola.
Jose Mourinho made it clear how much potential Solanke had at Chelsea.
Back in 2014, in his second stint as Stamford Bridge boss, Mourinho named Solanke in a list of players who would be representing their countries in a few years.
The now-Roma boss said: “In this moment, we have players who will be Chelsea players. And when they become Chelsea players, they will become England players, almost for sure.”
Quite understandable given Solanke’s success in the youth ranks.
He was England’s Youth Player of the Year in 2014, Chelsea’s Academy Player of the Year the following season and earned his first-team debut aged just 17.
Solanke was the prolific goalscorer who helped Chelsea to successive FA Youth Cups in 2014 and 2015, as well as a Uefa Youth League.
But four years ago, at the age of 19, Solanke opted for a new beginning having not seen first-team opportunities come his way.
He headed for Merseyside with Liverpool where he made 21 appearances in Jurgen Klopp’s first-team but only scored on the final day of the 2017-18 season.
Bournemouth forked out a whopping £19m for the 24-year-old in 2019 and he is a key part of their side pushing for promotion from the Championship.
Liverpool star Andrew Robertson once described Feruz, his then team-mate at Celtic, as the ‘golden boy’ of Scottish youth football.
Feruz was plucked away by Chelsea in 2011, aged 15, to be another star at the club’s Cobham academy.
But such promise didn’t translate into success for the striker as he was sent out on loan to Crete, Blackpool, Hibernian, Royal Excel Mouscron and Swindon Town.
And when his contract at Chelsea came to an end in 2017 he was released.
Despite only being 26-years-old, Feruz has been without a club since and set up a baseball cap brand in the meantime.
Over five years as a Blues player, having been sent on as many loans, Feruz made just 20 professional appearances and scored no goals.
Chelsea deemed the striker, once the darling of Scottish youth football, to have lost his potential.
The winger arrived in West London as a teen from Fluminense in August 2015 and soon scored his first goal for the club in the League Cup at Walsall in a 4-1 win.
Later that season in March he needed just 39 seconds to break the deadlock in another win at Norwich and ended up making 15 Premier League appearances for the club.
Hopes were high that his development would continue with a loan spell at Watford but he only managed to make one league appearance in a dismal stint at Vicarage Road.
Kenedy then headed to Newcastle in what turned out to be an 18-month loan in January 2018 and he did gain some top-flight experience with 38 Prem appearances.
Unfortunately for him that spell also led to him making history during a poor display against Cardiff.
He became the first player since 2010 to play a full Prem first half without completing a single pass before his stoppage time penalty was saved by Neil Etheridge.
Toon failed to make that move permanent and he then spent two seasons in Spain on loan at Getafe and then Granada.
The Brazilian has now returned to his homeland on loan at Flamengo in a move that can be turned permanent next summer for £8m.