The European Under-21 Championship gets underway next Sunday as 2017 hosts Poland kick the tournament off against Belgium, but which Chelsea players are set to embark on the two-week long journey of Europe’s best young talent?
The Blues have five representatives heading to Italy for the tournament, all of who have been picked by Aidy Boothroyd to pull on the England shirt. No other nation has a current Chelsea player in their squad, but Jake Clarke-Salter, Jay Dasilva, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham make up 22% of England’s 23-man roster, more than any other club.
The quintet could bring silverware back to England, with the Three Lions being the bookies’ favourites to win the tournament at 7/2 , but it would not be the first international trophy for any of them.
Clarke-Salter and Tomori were integral to England’s Under-20 World Cup winning campaign in 2017; both defenders started in the final. The other Chelsea player in that squad, Dominic Solanke, now applying his trade at Bournemouth, netted four times and won the ‘Golden Ball’ award, joining the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Paul Pogba on the illustrious list of players to have won the accolade.
In the same summer, Dasilva and Mount were victorious at the European Under-19 Championship. The latter scored England’s first goal of the tournament, a strike within 39 seconds of their 2-0 group stage win over Bulgaria, assisted by club teammate Dujon Sterling. Mount was named in the Team of the Tournament alongside Sterling and will be hopeful of a similarly brilliant campaign this summer.
The following year saw success for Abraham at the 2018 Toulon Tournament. Two goals, including the winner in a 2-1 victory over China, capped off an impressive summer for the youngster who had completed his inaugural Premier League season just weeks before.
As well as talent, experience will also be provided by Chelsea’s treasured youngsters, with over 200 appearances being racked up between the five players across the England age groups. Clarke-Salter is the only one of the five with fewer than 30 appearances for his country, while Dasilva has amounted a staggering 61 in a Three Lions shirt.
Abraham has tasted senior international football, making his debut in November 2017 against then-World Champions Germany, and has scored 15 goals across the age groups, including eight for the Under-21s.
After an impressive season at Derby County under the guidance of childhood footballing idol Frank Lampard, Mount was selected for the Nations League matches in October 2018 but failed to make his senior team debut. He had previously been invited to train with Gareth Southgate’s men prior to the 2018 World Cup, having undergone an eye-catching campaign in the Netherlands, scoring 14 goals in 38 appearances for Vitesse Arnhem.
All five youngsters spent the 2018/19 season on loan at various clubs. With Chelsea’s transfer ban unlikely to be frozen, they will be optimistic about their chances of featuring regularly in the first team in the upcoming campaign, and a successful individual tournament this summer will go a long way to enhancing that.
Despite this, Dasilva’s Chelsea future is in doubt after Bristol City CEO, Mark Ashton, revealed in January:
“We’re having discussions already around the squad for next season. Jay Dasilva we have a pre-agreed option to purchase with Chelsea so we’re in a good position.”
However, The Chelsea Echo understands that Dasilva has been advised not to make a decision on his future yet amid uncertainties surrounding the first team squad next season.
Chelsea’s defensive frailties were exposed on what seemed like a weekly basis in the 2018/19 season, so Clarke-Salter and Tomori could feel they deserve an opportunity in the coming months, although Kurt Zouma is the most likely loanee to fill a gap in the defence.
With the lack of forward-thinking midfielders at the club, Mount could challenge Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley for a starting place on the left of Chelsea’s midfield trio, while Abraham could capitalise on the low-quality striking options at the manager’s disposal.
England and their Chelsea youngsters are in Group C alongside Croatia, France and Romania. Their campaign will be broadcast live on Sky Sports for UK viewers, or click here to see where you can watch the tournament where you are.
England’s tournament schedule:
- Tuesday 18th June, 20:00 – England vs France
- Friday 21st June, 17:30 – England vs Romania
- Monday 24th June, 20:00 – Croatia vs England
- Thursday 27th June, TBD – Semi-final*
- Sunday 30th June, TBD – Final*
*If qualified for. All kick-off times are BST.
Written by Liam Wilson.