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Samuel Iling-Junior: Why his breakthrough a triumph for Chelsea and Juventus academy staff

COMMENT: Samuel Iling-Junior. Two different academies. Two different development phases. But this breakout season is a clear triumph of the coaching staff at both Chelsea and Juventus.

Currently nursing an ankle sprain, lling-Junior is being celebrated in Turin today. A 100 per cent record in Serie A. A Champions League appearance. And with two assists. Iling-Junior's promotion from the Juve's C team to Max Allegri's seniors coincided with a run of six consecutive league wins before the World Cup break up.

And the England U20 international was no passenger. With calls for Allegri's dismissal at fever pitch, the coach's decision to go with youth at the turn of October has not only seen the team's fortunes turn around, but also his job prospects. Iling-Junior, "my pleasant discovery", as Allegri describes him, has been a big part of that emotional shift. The winger winning praise from pundits alongside local hopefuls Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti, plus the Argentine, Matias Soule. The injection of youth - and the goodwill it inevitably generates - completely transforming the energy and emotion around the club.

They're dotted around Europe. In the best leagues. At the best clubs. And lling-Junior is just the latest. Jamal Musiala. Fikayo Tomori. Tammy Abraham. All internationals. All major players. And all graduates from the Chelsea academy. Throw in Tariq Lamptey and Marc Guehi. Plus, of course, what we're now seeing inside the Blues locker room, with Mason Mount, Reece James and Armando Broja. And is it any wonder Neil Bath has just been promoted this week from head of academy at Chelsea to director of football development? You'd be hard pressed to find a better producer of proven talent than Chelsea's system these past ten years.

And the latest Bath and co can hang their hat on is Samuel Iling-Junior. From eight to 16 years of age, Iling-Junior was a Chelsea player. Another among many youth teamers the club had high hopes for. But rather than follow the path of Abraham and Mount, he chose the Musiala course, committing his career to Juventus at 16.

It was a leap of faith. At Chelsea he was established - as he was with the England setup. And he was known. Juve weren't the only heavyweight to be in touch, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and PSG had also made attempts. As had Manchester United. In a Chelsea shirt, Iling-Junior - even at 14, 15 years of age - had established a reputation among those who matter inside the game.

But instead, he jumped. And though the development path Juve had mapped out was attractive, Iling-Junior and his support team knew nothing was guaranteed. Indeed, he did it the hard way in that first season. Moving out to Turin on his own. A foreign country. A foreign language. A new way of playing. Of being coached. It all hit him at once, but Iling-Junior adjusted. Adapted. And came out the other side a stronger player - and personality - for it.

And just as the coaching staff Bath had assembled at Cobham were key contributors to Iling-Junior's junior development, a ground-breaking decision from Juve's academy bosses would have a similar effect as he prepared to move into the senior game.

It's now five years since Juve went it alone and entered a 'C' team inside Italian football's pyramid. Regarding the leap from Primavera level to first team as almost impossible to bridge, Juve lobbied to be allowed to establish an intermediary step. And Juve's C team was born.

Now dubbed Juventus 'Next Gen', lling-Junior can be regarded as their poster boy. A symbol of the success of Juve's development path. From Primavera to Serie C to Serie A. Iling-Junior has made the transition appear smooth.

Two performances off the bench in Serie A led to victories, including creating the winner at Lecce, “I am very happy, a special moment for me, the family, the people I train with every day.

"Serie A football, it is different from that of C, there are so many things to understand and learn."

Such was the impact of Iling-Junior against Lecce that Marco Tardelli, the World Cup winner, called for more minutes for the English youngster: "Young players must enter in moments when the team is doing well, this is not a great time yet they are helping the team.

"I think it is very important to let them play."

Then another assist was added in the Champions League defeat at Benfica, where his performance was an admitted surprise for Allegri: "Young people give enthusiasm and quality.

"Iling was a pleasant discovery... he is growing."

Unfortunately an ankle sprain brought all that momentum to a halt. But Iling-Junior had done enough. The promise he'd shown. The excitement around his wing play. It's been enough for Juve. A senior contract has been tabled. At 19 - and with those three cameos - Juve's brainstrust are convinced that Iling-Junior is a genuine first team option.

So chalk up another one for the Cobham academy. But also credit Juve and their unique development path. It's all contributed to the making of a young winger from England, whose fleeting impact has gone a long way to keeping Max Allegri in his job.



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