10 stars who shone after leaving Chelsea’s academy – including Emile Smith Rowe

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Chelsea have one of the best academies in the country and are well known for developing a steady flow of promising young players, but they don’t always stick around.

While the likes of Reece James, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trevoh Chalobah have all progressed to the first team, that pathway is not open to everyone.

Many find themselves farmed out on loan, some decide to move onto pastures new, while some do not make it up the slippery slope to graduate.

Reaching the top is extremely difficult, but there are many routes – as became apparent on Tuesday when James dropped a revelation about Emile Smith Rowe.

The young midfielder has earned his first England call-up thanks to some brilliant form for Arsenal this season and Chelsea right-back James has not been surprised by what he’s seen.

"I've always known he was a top player, he came to Chelsea when he was quite young,” he said in an England press conference. “I remember playing with him and against him."

Smith Rowe is a graduate of Arsenal’s Hale End academy, but it seems his career could have been very different.

"I trialled at Chelsea and didn't get in,” the 21-year-old toldThe Daily Mailthis year. “Something about me not being big enough, I've heard.”

Smith Rowe’s upward trajectory this season suggests Chelsea may have let one get away – and he is far from the only near miss.

Here Daily Star Sport has taken a look at 10 players who have impressed since departing Chelsea’s academy.

Dominic Solanke

Solanke won the Chelsea Academy Player of the Year award in 2015 after netting a whopping 41 goals during the 2014/15 season.

He was rewarded with a first team debut that season but then followed a familiar path to many Chelsea youngsters as he joined Vitesse Arnhem on loan.

The striker scored a respectable seven goals from 25 games in the Netherlands but failed to breakthrough in the 2016/17 season at Stamford Bridge.

He joined Liverpool in 2017 after his contract expired but scored just one goal in 27 games before Bournemouth took a £19million gamble on his potential in January 2019.

Solanke started slowly with three goals in 42 Premier League appearances, but has found his feet in the Championship.

After managing 15 goals and eight assists in 2020/21, he now has 13 goals and one assist in just 17 Championship games this season, helping Bournemouth sit top of the league.

Tino Livramento

Not many people would have been familiar with Livramento’s name earlier this year, but he has burst onto the scene since deciding to leave Chelsea in search of game time over the summer.

The 18-year-old joined Southampton for £5m and has immediately become a fixture at right-back, forcing Kyle Walker-Peters to switch to left-back.

Livramento has been nothing short of a revelation for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, providing an energetic and determined presence on the right side of defence and was deservedly nominated for October's Premier League player of the month award.

Like Solanke, the England Under-21 international was Chelsea’s Academy Player of the Year for 2021, following in the promising footsteps of Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Reece James, Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour.

Eddie Nketiah

Like Smith Rowe, Nketiah is known as a Hale End graduate, but like his Arsenal team-mate, the fact he was born in south London led him to Chelsea first.

Nketiah, who is a native of Lewisham, was nine and playing for south-east London Sunday team Hillyfielders when he was spotted by a Chelsea scout.

The young striker stayed with the club until he was released in 2015, aged 14. He immediately moved to Arsenal, where he became a goalscoring sensation through the age groups.

He made his senior debut in September 2017 and, since returning from a loan spell at Leeds in 2019/20, has become a semi-regular on the team sheet.

Nketiah is out of contract with the Gunners in the summer, but Mikel Arteta has made it clear he wants to keep the 22-year-old.

Declan Rice

The most famous ‘what if’ of Chelsea’s academy. Rice spent eight years with the club, playing alongside his best friend Mount, between the ages of six and 14 before being released.

He moved to West Ham, where he has established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League.

Chelsea’s mistake in letting Rice was clear last year when former manager Frank Lampard tried to bring the 22-year-old back to the club to no avail.

Rice remains at West Ham, where he has starred in the Premier League and Europa League and worn the captain’s armband this season.

Tariq Lamptey

Lamptey’s breakthrough came in the 2020/21 season – but not with Chelsea.

The 21-year-old right-back progressed through the academy and made just three substitute appearances for the Blues before deciding to up sticks and move to Brighton in January 2020.

He has already emerged as a star under Graham Potter on the south coast, with his electric pace and tenacity catching the eye in the Premier League.

A hamstring injury has hindered his progress this year, but he has now played five times this season and looks set to return to his previous ways.

Marc Guehi

For a player that only made two appearances for the Chelsea senior team, Guehi sure had a strong reputation at the club.

That standing was built upon two hugely successful loan spells with Swansea City from January 2020 to the end of the 2020/21 season, where he became a key player across 59 appearances.

Returning to Chelsea in the summer, many felt a first-team breakthrough could be on the cards, but Crystal Palace pounced.

Palace paid £18m for the 21-year-old’s services and he has already made 12 appearances in central defence this season.

Nathan Ake

Having come through ADO Den Haag and Feyenoord, Ake joined Chelsea aged 15 in 2010.

Like many Chelsea youngsters, the young defender was sent on a variety of loans, to Reading, Watford and Bournemouth.

And like many Chelsea youngsters, he failed to breakthrough into the first team and decided to move elsewhere to further his career.

Bournemouth stumped up £20m in June 2017 and the Cherries got three solid years of service out of him before Man City spent £41m to sign him last summer.

City’s stable of quality centre-backs and injury problems have slowed his progress, but Ake has made 20 appearances under Pep Guardiola since joining the club.

Patrick van Aanholt

The Dutch left-back joined Chelsea’s youth ranks in 2007 before going out on loan to Coventry, Newcastle, Leicester, Wigan and, of course, Vitesse.

He made just eight appearances for Chelsea’s first team before moving on permanently to Sunderland in 2014.

Van Aanholt spent three years on Wearside, but it was at Crystal Palace where he really established himself as a consistent, attacking left-back.

With his contract up over the summer, Van Aanholt moved to Galatasaray, where he has been a regular for the Turkish club this season.

Rhian Brewster

Brewster was a sensation as a youngster, attracting attention from Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham and Charlton as a seven year old.

He chose Chelsea and progressed through the youth ranks before he jumped ship to Liverpool in 2015, aged just 14.

That decision was influenced by Michael Beale, who had worked with Brewster at Chelsea before taking up a job with Liverpool.

Brewster scored goals for the Reds’ Under-18s and Under-23s, but made just four appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

After a loan to Swansea, he was signed by Sheffield United for £23.5m in October 2020. And while he couldn’t keep the Blades up last season, the 21-year-old striker has settled better this season in the Championship.

Chris Mepham

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Mepham spent four years at Chelsea between the ages of 10 and 14 before he was released.

The centre-back was rejected by QPR and Watford before Brentford offered him a place at their academy in 2012.

Mepham continued his development with the Bees and was an immediate hit with the club after progressing to the first team in 2016.

He made 48 appearances over two and a half seasons with Brentford before Bournemouth splashed out £12m to sign him in January 2019.

Mepham has earned 25 caps for Wales and, like Solanke, has played all 17 of the Cherries’ Championship games this season.

If Scott Parker’s side continue their trajectory, the duo could be set for a promotion to the Premier League.

  • Chelsea FC
  • Premier League

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