Chelsea beat Barcelona in the race for Chukwuemeka
“Chelsea have made another notable acquisition, beating serious top club rivals in the race for 18-year-old Cairn Chukwuemeku. He will be signed from Aston Villa for the impressive sum of £20 million for such a young lad. Thomas Tuchel was in a hurry to strengthen the midfield before the start of the season, and the youngster could be Chelsea’s latest recruit, having previously signed striker Raheem Sterling, defender Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina.
But what does the 18-year-old Chelsea player have to offer this season? And why has he attracted so much interest from other top clubs? Yes, and can Chukwuemeka immediately become a player in the starting lineup of the “blues”? Let’s look into it.
Who is Chukwuemeka?
He was born in the small Austrian town of Eisenstadt in October 2003 in a family of Nigerians. Then he moved to England, where he grew up, in Northampton. So Cairney is eligible to represent three countries at once, but the choice fell to England at the junior level. And Chukwuemeka attracted attention in the under-19 national team.
For this team he played 11 games, scoring five goals. And he was very noticeable at last summer’s European Championship (U19). He scored in England’s first two matches at the tournament against Austria and Serbia, then was given the captain’s armband for the final match against Israel. And Cairney didn’t let him down, scoring his third goal of the tournament in extra time to seal a 3-1 victory. He played a key role in the English youth’s success and was named in the tournament’s symbolic squad.
At the same time at Aston Villa about the talent Chukwuemeki knew for quite some time. He came through Northampton’s academy and joined Villa as a 12-year-old in 2016. The Birmingham team won the FA Youth Cup in the 2020/21 season, and Chukwuemeka was instrumental in that success. In May 2021, Cairney made his debut at the top level, coming on as a substitute in a game against Tottenham.
Chukwuemeka made his starting lineup at Villa in August 2021, in a game against Brentford early last season. He played a total of 11 games in the league last season and overall was an important part of the team, as important as an 18-year-old can be.
What’s his relationship with Villa Chukwuemeka leaving the team?
Can’t say he’s in a good relationship. His contract was expiring next summer, and the club offered him a new deal. Birmingham head coach Steven Gerrard expected to keep him.
“We want Cairney to stay here for a long time. We think this is the best place for him. Hopefully the situation will develop in our favor,” Gerrard said in May.
However, Chukwuemeka never accepted Villa’s new offer, causing the coach to exclude the player from the team’s preseason tour of Australia.
“Cairney has not yet signed the new contract we offered him some time ago. I decided that the best thing for him would be to stay and continue the training program separately,” Gerrard commented on the situation during the tour.
Well, it’s clear now that Aston Villa is losing one of their most talented players, but it was coming to that. The only question was who would be more successful in the race for Chukwuemeka.
Who else was trying to sign him?
When Chukwuemeka, who was certainly being watched by various scouts, turned down Villa’s offer, it was a signal to interested parties: the player was ready to negotiate and should be grabbed now, as there was more than one suitor for him.
Cairney was linked at various times with interest from Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, and Milan even made an offer of three million pounds, but it was rejected. Having lost to Barcelona in the race for Rafinho and Kunda, Chelsea found themselves facing the prospect of missing out on a third player over the summer as well. Therefore, the question has already become a matter of principle. And here the Blues have succeeded. Either the Catalans and Dortmund were not so persistent.
What is Chukwuemeka’s style?
So far, it’s hard to judge what the 18-year-old is like at the adult regular-season level. However, experts point to his dribbling as a strength. In the final third of the pitch, Cairney is able to do nifty feints with the ball when it seems as if the ball is glued to his feet. The Premier League is known for its pace and intensity of play, which means Chukwuemeka will have less time and space, which provided additional opportunities at youth level.
However, this is not a one-take player. He has already shown that quick feet and developed soccer intelligence can provide the necessary qualities for quicker play in the penalty box and interaction with partners in front of it. Cairney’s goaltending flair has also clearly attracted Blue’s scouts. During Villa’s triumph in the FA Youth Cup last year, Chukwuemeka scored seven goals in six games, including a hat-trick against Newcastle.
A midfielder who can score regularly could be very useful for the current Chelsea team.
Will he become a player of the starting lineup?
Chelsea do not have many options in the center of midfield, especially in this style and manner of play. This is a big advantage for Chukwuemeka, showing why the Blues were so desperate to sign him. That said, Chelsea have Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek and Gallagher back. And Chelsea are not counting on Barkley. That’s not to say that Tuchel will latch onto Chukwuemeka as a lifesaving option, but Cairn will definitely get his chances.
In addition, Kante has had injuries of late, Kovacic and Loftus-Cheek have suffered from instability in their form. “Chelsea” needs to play on several fronts, and a fresh impetus in the midfield will come in handy. It may well be at Chelsea that Chukwuemeka will open up at a whole new level after an outstanding summer with the England youth team.