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Best youth team in history? Why Chelsea whizkids must cut all ties - now

COMMENT: Inside Chelsea, there's never been any doubting the quality of Charly Musonda. If ever an academy talent was going to make it, it was the Belgian...

We emphasise was, because today Musonda finds himself at the crossroads - and not of all his own making. At 21 and with his peers now establishing themselves in first teams across Europe, Musonda is in the middle of his second failed sojourn. After Real Betis, he's now stuck in Glasgow with very little to show from his time with Celtic. That's two opportunities in two different competitions he's failed to grasp. And at his age, you can't really argue that it's too much too soon for the midfielder. The question has to be asked: for all the potential he showed as a teenager, has Musonda already seen his peak?

And more worrying for Chelsea - how does Musonda's struggles away from the nest impact on the next group coming through?

Those U18s celebrating another Chelsea trophy on Saturday, know all about Musonda. His ability. His leadership. A couple of years ahead of the current group, Musonda is a role model for them. They've looked up to the playmaker. But now they see him struggling. Is this what awaits them?

In the midst of the greatest period of underage success in England's football history, Chelsea stand alone as the country's best U18 team. While England boast the U17 and U20 World Cups, Jody Morris' Chelsea have just won a fifth consecutive FA Youth Cup - matching the achievement of the Busby Babes at Manchester United in the 1950s.

Even on Saturday, they collected another trophy, winning at United in the north v south final to be crowned national youth champions. We are seeing perhaps the best youth team ever produced in England. Yet, how many of the names involved do we know?

Ben Woodburn at Liverpool. Ryan Sessegnon with Fulham. Reiss Nelson of Arsenal. Even Chelsea old boy Declan Rice at West Ham. Still teens. Still some the same age as those involved for Chelsea at Leigh Village on Saturday. Yet this season they've become known across the globe. In contrast at Chelsea, there's no U20 we could name who deserves mentioning in the same bracket.

It can't be talent. Those working below the first team at Chelsea are making history. They're doing their job. No team of coaches have produced a better group of young players in English football. But when a lad with as much potential as Musonda appears completely lost at 21 years of age, the bridge between the academy and the first team is clearly falling down.

The current group at Cobham may feel time is on their side. 17, 18 even 19 years of age, they'll all be told by Chelsea to be patient. Follow the development path mapped out for them. Which was the same advice given to Musonda at their age. As it was Nathaniel Chalobah. Dominic Solanke. Even Tomas Kalas - who, despite being with Fulham, is still a Chelsea player - but does anyone really expect him to make it at Stamford Bridge?

For the likes of Dujon Sterling, Juan Castillo and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the advice has to be: get out now. Andreas Christensen is the exception. Two years away with Borussia Monchengladbach, he's found his way back to Stamford Bridge. But where such an arrangement worked for the Dane, it's clearly tripped up Musonda. Would Brendan Rodgers, the Celtic manager, have invested so little in Musonda this season if he knew he wouldn't be losing the midfielder in just another 12 months? Would he be pushing him more and granting him more opportunities if Musonda was a fully-fledged Hoops player?

That's why Chelsea's current U18s need to cut ties. They need to allow their new club and manager to fully invest in them.

Sterling shouldn't have hesitated in January. Inside the local game, many believe he's ready for Premier League football - and definitely capable of being a first-choice Championship player. When Eddie Howe came knocking over the winter market, he should've pushed to go - and in an outright sale. He's seen what former Blue Nathan Ake is now doing at Bournemouth. Sterling needs to tread the same path.

As do his teammates. Hudson-Odoi has seen action this season and Morris believes he has a chance. But c'mon Jody, Tammy Abraham is coming back from Swansea City. Michy Batshuayi from Borussia Dortmund. Alvaro Morata. Olivier Giroud. And a new manager may have his own ideas about the first team's current firepower. What chance has the lad next season? Is it really worth him hanging around?

Solanke's now a Champions League player at Liverpool. He's not looking back. The former Blue is looking forward. Can we today say the same for Musonda? This is what Hudson-Odoi and his teammates need to consider going into the summer market.

If the final step of Chelsea's development path has failed a player as talented as Musonda, then what chance the rest them?

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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