Carney Chukwuemeka became Aston Villa’s fourth highest sale He joined Chelsea for £20million last summerwith club chief executive Christian Purslow claiming his departure would help fund the academy for the next five years.
Villa’s top sale, of course, is another boy who graduated from the academy. Jack Grealish was 25 when he joined Manchester City for £100mwho, at the time of his big move, was seven years older than Chukwuemeka, who celebrated his 19th birthday last October.
That’s not to say Villa wasn’t necessarily willing to wire Chukwuemeka’s money after offering to make him the highest-paid teenager in club history in exchange for signing a new contract. But the midfielder’s decision was made long before Chelsea made a staggering offer for a youngster with a year left on his contract.
Chukwuemeka, it was reported in November 2021, had decided he couldn’t see his way into Villa’s first-team, making the decision to join Chelsea odd – although he revealed after signing he was a childhood fan Association.
Grealish wasn’t the first academy graduate to break into England senior side Villa in the Premier League era. Gabriel Agbonlahor had done so before him and Jacob Ramsey, who captained the Under-21s this week, is on track to do so.
Although Chelsea have shown a willingness to create opportunities for youngsters like Reece James and Mason Mount in recent years, the road to the first team seemed far from smooth – and it has proven it.
Chukwuemeka made 14 appearances for Villa last season, two more than Chelsea before his former club’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Saturday night. With 11 Premier League games remaining and the club still playing in the Champions League, he is confident of beating last season’s tally, which would have been his first goal.
Of those 14 appearances for Villa, three have been starts and Chukwuemeka has still only started one game for Chelsea. His 240 minutes is significantly shorter than the 416 minutes he played for the Midlands club, although his contractual stalemate limited his playing time under former manager Steven Gerrard at the end of last season.
Chukwuemeka recently claimed he is close to playing more league minutes for Chelsea than he did for Villa last season, but he has over 100 minutes left to do that and he has yet to appear in Europe for the club.
Gareth Southgate has expressed his concerns about the declining number of English players playing in the Premier League and Chukwuemeka is certainly a teenager the Three Lions have high hopes for.
Chukwuemeka represented his country in last summer’s European Under-19 Championship, which England won, and earned a place in the team of the tournament. The hope would have been that he would have been promoted to the U21 squad in time for the European Championship this summer. Instead, he is a member of the Under-20s, which he captained, and his international career remains on the up.
“The transition was tough, but good”
For Chukwuemeka, who joined Villa’s academy from Northampton Town aged 15, there was an understandable period of adjustment at Chelsea.
“In the beginning it was quite difficult. Villa was all I knew; That’s where I made my debut. I owe them a lot,” Chukwuemeka said in an internal interview with Chelsea. “I just had to realize that I would play for the club I support. The transition was tough but good at the same time.
“I felt like I had to be patient at the start of the season. I trusted God’s plan for me and now I’ve almost beat the league minutes I got all of last season. It’s a step forward in my career.
It’s hard to argue that moving from Villa to Chelsea, a club that has won every domestic and European trophy in modern times, isn’t a step forward in a player’s career. But whether he jumped too early will be seen in the coming seasons.
Chukwuemeka is likely to be watching some of his former team-mates from the substitutes’ bench on Saturday, while Ramsey has a better chance of starting for Villa at Stamford Bridge.
Ramsey is almost two years older than Chukwuemeka so it is interesting to note that the midfielder made 25 senior appearances for Villa at the age of 19 and added another 10 to that total last season.
Villa signed two midfielders, Boubacar Kamara and Leander Dendoncker, last summer and yet Ramsey will make his 28th club appearance this season when he plays at Stamford Bridge and could surpass his career best of 35 by the end of the season.
Less than six months after moving to Stamford Bridge, Chukwuemeka saw Chelsea break the UK transfer fee record to sign another midfielder, Enzo Fernandez. and there’s a chance they’ll reinforce the position again this summer.
But Jorginho was the first in a string of planned departures that could include Mateo Kovacic in the summer and it’s not inconceivable that Chukwuemeka will be higher up Chelsea’s pecking order a year after his odd move.
Source : sports.yahoo.com