Chelsea’s 14 FM 2012 wonderkids – and how they have fared in real life 10 years on


Chelsea are on the verge of a new era with Roman Abramovich’s 19-year stint as Blues owner set to come to an end.

Earlier this week, both the Premier League and UK Government confirmed that the takeover bid from the Todd Boehly-led consortium had been approved, with an official announcement now expected imminently. Under the stewardship of the Russian billionaire, Chelsea won every major club honor, including the Champions League and World Club Cup in just the last 12 months.

But as well as their senior team, Chelsea have become famous for their development sides, winning the FA Youth Cup seven times since its takeover in 2003. In the last 10 years, they have dominated the competition, lifting the trophy on six occasions.

With the help of the iconic simulation game ‘Football Manager’ and their list of wonderkids from 2012, Mirror Football has taken a look at how they’ve panned out in the decade since and most notably the ones they let get away.

(Age at the time of the list being released in 2012)

Thibaut Courtois – (19)

Signed in 2011, Courtois came with the reputation as one of the best young keepers in Europe and only solidified his standing with three brilliant seasons on loan with Atletico Madrid. In his final season in the Spanish capital he reached the Champions League final and won the LaLiga title, before returning to replace Peter Cech in the 2014/15 campaign.

Thibaut Courtois was at the forefront of Real Madrid’s La Liga title celebrations


David S. Bustamante / Soccrates / Getty Images)

In four seasons as the No.1 in west London, he won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup. After an acrimonious end to his time at Chelsea, he joined Real Madrid on a six-year contract where he has remained right at the top of his game.

Matej Delac – (18)

One of many youngsters to be signed by Chelsea and never actually make an appearance. The Croatian keeper joined the club in 2010, before the familiar route of loan deal after loan deal – completing 10 temporary transfers, he finally left for Danish top-flight side Horsens in 2018 and is still their No.1 after three seasons.

Jeffrey Bruma – (19)

Jeffrey Bruma is now with Turkish top-flight side Kasimpasa

Bruma arrived at Chelsea as a 15-year-old and made the FA Youth Cup final in his first season. There were high hopes for the Dutchman who was quickly included in senior squads, but he failed to ever make the grade.

He did make four Premier League appearances for Chelsea before loans to Leicester and Hamburg and ultimately, a permanent move back to his home country with PSV. Back in the Netherlands, he won two Eredivisie titles, earning him a move to Wolfsburg, but that failed to pan out. He now plays for Kasimpasa in the Turkish Super Lig, but made just one appearance last season.

Tomas Kalas – (18)

Chelsea dished out more than £ 5m for the Czech center back, but despite failing to make the grade at Stamford Bridge, he has forged a really solid Championship career. Being a regular for Middlesbrough, Fulham and most recently Bristol City.

In 2018, he helped Fulham to promotion through the play-offs and has made 28 appearances for the national side.

Nathan Ake – (16)

One of the real success stories for Chelsea in terms of finances, Ake, who joined Chelsea’s academy as a teenager caught the eye with loan moves away, before joining Bournemouth for a fee in the region of £ 20m in 2017.

After three brilliant seasons on the south coast, Pep Guardiola was suitably impressed, sanctioning a £ 41m transfer and although he is mainly a squad player – he already has two Premier League winners’ medals to his name.

Nathan Ake now has two Premier League titles with Man City

Nathaniel Chalobah – (16)

Before his younger brother Trevoh made an impact at Chelsea, Nathaniel was turning heads in the academy. The captain for reserve and youth teams, the midfielder was expected to eventually find his way into the first team.

It took a few years, five loan moves and six managers, but in 2016 Antonio Conte earmarked the versatile one-time England international as a star of the future. He made 10 appearances as they lifted the title that season, but was allowed to join Watford the next summer in order to play more regular football.

Unfortunately, injuries hampered his progress at Vicarage Road and in 2021, he returned to Fulham, the team he left for a decade earlier and played a bit-part role in their recent promotion back to the Premier League.

Patrick van Aanholt – (20)

Another to not make it to Chelsea, but forge an extremely impressive Premier League career. After several loan moves, including three seasons back in the Netherlands with Vitesse, the full-back joined Sunderland in 2014 and instantly became a mainstay in their side.

Three seasons later he returned to the capital with Crystal Palace and spent six successful seasons at Selhurst Park, making almost 150 appearances. At the expiry of his contract he joined Galatasaray and he has just completed his first season in Turkey.

Oriol Romeu – (19)

Signed from Barcelona for € 5m in 2011, Romeu was instantly thrust into the first team and made 16 appearances in his first season. However, he quickly fell out of favor and subsequent loan moves to Valencia and Stuttgart were sanctioned.

In 2015 he joined Southampton and has gone on to become one of the most underrated midfielders in the entire top flight. In total he has made more than 250 appearances for the Saints and is seventh on the club’s all-time Premier League appearance list.

Josh McEachran – (18)

Josh McEachran is now with Milton Keynes Dons in League One

Touted as the ‘Next Frank Lampard’ it was never going to be easy for McEachran to live up to the hype. In 2010 he played a key part in Chelsea winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 50 years and racked up the awards away from the senior team.

He was given a glimpse of first team action, but in truth never quite hit the heights so many expected. That’s certainly not to say he hasn’t enjoyed a long career and had a good time with Brentford in the Championship. After an unsuccessful spell with Birmingham City, he joined MK Dons in League One.

Jacob Mellis – (20)

While his time at Chelsea was not that noteworthy, the circumstances around his exit certainly were. Mellis was infamously involved in an incident which saw a smoke-bomb let off at the club’s Cobham training ground.

Mellis denies he was sacked, but he swiftly departed moving down the football pyramid with notable spells at Barnsley, Bury and Mansfield. In February of this year he joined Non-League side Leatherhead.

Conor Clifford – (19)

The captain of the famous 2010 FA Youth Cup team, Clifford actually scored the decisive goal in the final. That was as good as it got in a Chelsea shirt however, after a number of loan spells he was released in 2013.

He then had brief spells with Leicester and Southend before dropping into Non-League and then returning to the League of Ireland with Dundalk in 2017. He’s currently with Bray Wanderers, who have 12 points from their opening 14 matches of the 2022 season.

Gael Kakuta – (20)

Arguably one of the most controversial transfers of the Abramovich era. Kakuta signed from Lens as a teenager. His signing was the basis of a case brought against both the club and player, due to what was described as a breach in his Lens contract.

Kakuta was banned for four months, while the Blues were slapped with a transfer ban which would stretch over two windows. That was eventually lifted, but after making just 16 appearances at senior level, it was not quite worth the hassle it caused.

After leaving for Sevilla in 2015, Kakuta has played for seven clubs in as many years and is now back where it all started with Lens – making 31 appearances in all competitions last term, scoring three goals.

Kevin De Bruyne – (20)

Gulp. In an alternate reality De Bruyne has just completed his 10th season at Chelsea, helping them to another league title and further asserting himself as one of the club’s greatest ever players. It’s now mind boggling to think he was deemed surplus to requirements after making just a handful of appearances.

Having joined Wolfsburg permanently in 2014, it did not take long to show the scale of error they had made. The fact he is now showing his skills as one of the Premier League’s best ever at City must be a painful one.

At club level he has now won four Premier League titles, an FA Cup and five League Cups. His individual honors… simply too many to list. Oh no.

Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Josh McEachran during their Chelsea days – pictured with Gary Cahill

Romelu Lukaku – (18)

If someone would have told Stamford Bridge chiefs back in 2012 that Lukaku would fetch £ 293.5m in transfer fees, it would have been cause to pop out the Champagne. Their mood may change when they were told £ 97.5m of that was paid by Chelsea however.

Lukaku took the brave decision to leave Stamford Bridge and became one of the Premier League’s best strikers with Everton. It did not quite work out with Manchester United, but he was then back to his best with Inter Milan.

A decade on Lukaku is the only player still at Chelsea – albeit with his journey going around the houses and costing almost £ 100m. His return could still be a success story, but his first season could have scarcely gone worse.

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