Chelsea FM’s 14 wonderkids of 2012 – and how they fared in real life 10 years later
Chelsea are set to enter a new era with the end of Roman Abramovich’s 19-year tenure as Blues owner.
Earlier this week, the Premier League and the UK government confirmed that the takeover bid from the Todd Boehly-led consortium had been approved, with a formal announcement now expected imminently. Under the Russian billionaire’s leadership, Chelsea have won all major club honours, including the Champions League and Club World Cup in the last 12 months alone.
But as well as their senior squad, Chelsea have become famous for their development squads, winning the FA Youth Cup seven times since being taken over in 2003. In the past 10 years they have dominated the competition, lifting the trophy six times .
With the help of the iconic simulation game ‘Football Manager’ and their list of wonders of 2012, Football Mirror took a look at how they’ve fared in the decade since and specifically those they let slip away.
(Age when the list was published in 2012)
Thibaut Courtois – (19)
Signed in 2011, Courtois came with a reputation as one of Europe’s finest young goalkeepers and only cemented his position with three stellar 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.
David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
In four seasons as a No.1 in west London, he won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup. After an acrimonious end at Chelsea, he joined Real Madrid on a six-year contract where he remained at the top of his game.
Matej Delac – (18)
One of many youngsters to be signed by Chelsea and never make an appearance. The Croatian goalkeeper joined the club in 2010, before the familiar route of loan deal after loan deal – making 10 temporary transfers, he eventually left for Danish top-flight side Horsens in 2018 and is still their No. 1 after three seasons.
Jeffrey Bruma – (19)
Bruma arrived at Chelsea aged 15 and appeared in the FA Youth Cup final in his first season. There were high hopes for the Dutchman who was quickly included in the senior squads but he never made it to the level.
He made four Premier League appearances for Chelsea before loans to Leicester and Hamburg and eventually a permanent return to his home country with PSV. Back in the Netherlands, he won two Eredivisie titles, earning him a move to Wolfsburg, but it didn’t come to fruition. He now plays for Kasimpasa in the Turkish Super Lig but only made one appearance last season.
Tomas Kalas – (18)
Chelsea have handed out over £5m to the Czech centre-back but despite his failure at Stamford Bridge he has carved out a truly solid league career. Being a regular at Middlesbrough, Fulham and more recently Bristol City.
In 2018 he helped Fulham through the play-offs and made 28 appearances for the national side.
Nathan Ake – (16)
One of Chelsea’s true financial success stories, Ake, who joined Chelsea’s academy as a teenager, caught the eye with loans, before joining Bournemouth for a fee of around £20million. pounds sterling in 2017.
After three stellar seasons on the south coast, Pep Guardiola has been suitably impressed, signing off on a £41million move and despite being primarily a team player, he already has two Premier League winners’ medals to its active.
Nathanael Chalobah – (16)
Before his younger brother Trevoh made an impact at Chelsea, Nathaniel was turning heads at the academy. Captain of the reserve and youth teams, the midfielder was eventually to find his place in the first team.
It took a few years, five loan moves and six managers, but in 2016 Antonio Conte named the versatile England international a star of the future. He made 10 appearances winning the title that season, but was allowed to join Watford the following summer in order to play football more regularly.
Unfortunately injuries hampered his progress at Vicarage Road and in 2021 he returned to Fulham, the team he left a decade earlier and played a minor role in their recent promotion to the Premier League.
Patrick van Aanholt – (20)
Another not to succeed at Chelsea, but to carve out a hugely impressive career in the Premier League. After several loan moves, including three seasons in the Netherlands with Vitesse, the full-back joined Sunderland in 2014 and instantly became a mainstay in their team.
Three seasons later he returned to the capital with Crystal Palace and spent six successful seasons at Selhurst Park, making nearly 150 appearances. When his contract expired, he joined Galatasaray and has just completed his first season in Turkey.
Oriol Romeu – (19)
Signed from Barcelona for €5million in 2011, Romeu was instantly thrust into the first team and made 16 appearances in his debut season. However, he quickly fell out of favor and subsequent loan moves to Valencia and Stuttgart were sanctioned.
In 2015 he joined Southampton and became one of the most underrated midfielders in the entire top flight. In total, he has made over 250 appearances for Saints and is seventh on the club’s all-time Premier League appearances list.
Josh McEachran – (18)
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 role in Chelsea winning the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 50 years and racking up the accolades away from the senior side.
He got a glimpse of first-team action, but in truth, he never reached the much-awaited heights. That’s certainly not to say he hasn’t had a long career and had a great time with Brentford in the Championship. After an unsuccessful stint with Birmingham City, he joined MK Dons in League One.
Jacob Mellis – (20)
While his time at Chelsea wasn’t all that remarkable, the circumstances surrounding his exit certainly were. Mellis was sadly involved in an incident which saw a smoke bomb go off at the club’s training ground in Cobham.
Mellis denies being sacked, but he quickly went down the football pyramid with notable spells at Barnsley, Bury and Mansfield. In February this year, he joined non-league side Leatherhead.
Conor Clifford – (19)
Captain of the famous 2010 FA Youth Cup side, Clifford actually scored the decisive goal in the final. He was as good as he was in a Chelsea shirt, however, after a number of loan spells he was released in 2013.
He then had brief stints with Leicester and Southend before moving to non-league and then returning to the League of Ireland with Dundalk in 2017. He is currently with Bray Wanderers, who have 12 points from their first 14 appearances of the 2022 season.
Gael Kakuta – (20)
Arguably one of the most controversial transfers of the Abramovich era. Kakuta signed for Lens as a teenager. His signing was the basis of a case brought against both the club and the player, over what was described as a breach of his contract with Lens.
Kakuta was banned for four months, while the Blues were hit with a transfer ban that would span two windows. That was eventually lifted, but after making just 16 appearances at senior level, it wasn’t really worth the hassle it caused.
After leaving for Sevilla in 2015, Kakuta 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 season, scoring three goals.
Kevin De Bruyne – (20)
Sip. In an alternate reality, De Bruyne has just completed his 10th season at Chelsea, helping them win another league title and further establishing himself as one of the club’s greatest ever players. It is now mind-boggling to think that he was deemed surplus after making a few appearances.
Having joined Wolfsburg permanently in 2014, it didn’t take long to show the extent of the mistake they had made. The fact that he is now showing his skills as one of the Premier League’s best at City must be painful.
At club level, he has now won four Premier League titles, an FA Cup and five League Cups. His individual accolades…simply too numerous to list. Oh no.
Romelu Lukaku – (18)
Had someone told Stamford Bridge chiefs in 2012 that Lukaku would be hitting a £293.5m transfer fee, that would have been cause for the Champagne to come out. Their mood may change when they are told that £97.5million has been paid by Chelsea.
Lukaku made the brave decision to leave Stamford Bridge and became one of the Premier League’s best strikers with Everton. It didn’t quite work out with Manchester United, but then he got back to his best with Inter Milan.
A decade on, Lukaku is the only player still at Chelsea – despite his trip rounding houses and costing almost £100million. His comeback could still be a success, but his debut season could hardly have been worse.