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Has Poch found his Kane? Why the Chelsea manager has cleared the way for Broja's return

COMMENT: Armando Broja. For Chelsea. For all the rumours and claims. He's it. The academy lad is the one chosen - in this new era - to lead the Blues attack. And his manager wouldn't have it anyother way...

Pressure? Expectation? Who cares. This is what Broja has long worked towards. A chance. An opportunity. And the backing of a manager who believes in him. For Mauricio Pochettino it's a gamble, sure. But he's seen something in Broja. Indeed, he's seen enough to insist no senior centre-forward was signed over the summer who would block the lad's progress. Even with an ACL injury to overcome. Even with a senior Chelsea career of barely months. It was still enough for Poch to put his foot down and insist Broja's pathway not be muddied.

Pushed about a new centre-forward signing before last week's deadline fell, Pochettino was adamant: there was no need. They had one. The club just had to wait.

"We are working of course," said the Argentine. "We're seeing all the options we can manage on the market. I think all the clubs are the same as us.

"In the same time we are keeping eyes on Armando Broja because I think we cannot forget him. We cannot stop him by bringing a profile of player that could stop his evolution.

"We really believe in him, he can be a really important strike for Chelsea. We need to be careful."

It's obvious that Pochettino championed Broja's cause during the multiple transfer summits he had with the club's sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Lawrence Stewart. Under the former Brighton analysts, it was another window of change. Turmoil. It even cost Christopher Vivell his job. But for all the tumult, Poch managed get his way on one position. He may not have been involved in the likes of Cole Palmer - "I think it was when the sporting directors and owners translated the idea to add him to the squad"- joining up, but it's clear the Broja project is all his own.

It's thirteen games and a goal in Chelsea colours so far. On paper, it's hardly the stuff of champions. But as we say, Pochettino has seen something in Broja. And you fancy what he's spotted is similar to what had him trying to sign a reserve striker from Tottenham when Southampton manager in January 2014.

Only the intervention of Tim Sherwood stopped Harry Kane from moving to St Mary's in that window. But Pochettino and Kane would soon enough be united at Tottenham - and of course the rest is history.

Is Broja a 'new Harry Kane'? Well, not currently. But at Broja's age, Kane was just coming off a disappointing loan spell with Leicester City in the Championship. Indeed, beyond Poch and his staff at Southampton, no-one was talking about Kane as they do Broja today.

Of course, we're not going for the hyperbole. There's no claims here that Broja will match the feats of England's captain. But it is significant that he has this support from his manager. Just as it is, with all the money Chelsea have (again) thrown across the summer market, the position of centre-forward has been left alone. Yes, Nicolas Jackson arrived from Villarreal. And yes, Christopher Nkunku is capable of playing there at a pinch. But they're not Broja. Not physically. Not with his aerial game. He stands apart. And for all the like-for-like alternatives offered by Chelsea scouts, Pochettino shut them all down to leave things free and clear for Broja.

Again, Poch on his young Albania international: "He's close but sometimes you are close but last step is difficult after the injury he suffered. He has trained well, we have hope also.

“That is why we are assessing the squad and all of the things that happen. It is easy to say we need another offensive player, but I think we have offensive players and they need to recover."

Effectively, this is the Poch we've been waiting for. Indeed, this is the Poch Chelsea's academy staff have been waiting for. It's no secret now, but they've absolutely floored ("a lot of us are gutted, just gutted") by the clearout of local talent these past three transfer windows. But to see Poch back a lad many of them have known since he was seven years of age is sure to lift morale.

But in frank terms, he's not doing it for them. He's not even doing it for Broja. Poch is backing this academy graduate because he believes Broja is capable of leading the line at Chelsea. Of scoring goals. Of winning games. And bringing together his favoured playing system.

It's why Paolo Maldini was asking anyone and everyone (including in the media) about the kid from Slough. Maldini had Broja on AC Milan's radar before that ACL in December. As we say, when Kane was battling away at Norwich and Leicester in the Championship, Broja - at the same age - had the attention of Maldini.

It's a gamble. And it's going against type - particularly for today's version of Chelsea. But Pochettino has seen enough in Broja to leave the path clear. He wants to give this academy graduate every chance to become his first-choice centre-forward. Just as he did all those years ago with another relative unknown on the other side of London.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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