WAGNH is not the only website out there looking at top prospects in advance of the new year, as ESPN decided to chime in with a look at some of the top young talents in the world to watch for 2013. They picked out five emerging young stars from around the world to keep track of, and shockingly Nathan Ake was on that list. Chris Atkins wrote the following about our 17-year old prospect:
"Young Dutch centre back Nathan Aké made his Chelsea league debut last weekend as the Blues defeated Norwich City, 1-0. Still just 17, Aké is one of the youngest players to feature in the league this season.
The youngster's arrival at senior level has long been anticipated, having played a major role in the club's FA Youth Cup triumph of 2011-12. On the national team, he also won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship twice - the second time as captain.
A terrifically composed player on the ball, the former Feyenoord defender has also spent time in a holding midfield role, but it is at centre back that his height (5-10) speed and technique all come together to offer a potentially brilliant package. At his best, he has offered a one-man defensive wall at youth level.
There is a long way to go in his development, but every sign is that he could develop to become a fearsome defender. Chelsea must be brave with him, where they could have pushed Jeffrey Bruma and Michael Mancienne more in the past.
Whilst he is simply too young to make a huge impact at first-team level in the next 12 months, it will be interesting to see just how many opportunities he is afforded by his club. Aké is certainly a player to watch in 2013 and beyond."
I like Ake a lot, and I had him ranked higher than most in our recent top ten voting. That said, the odds of him contributing much to Chelsea at all in 2013 are incredibly slim*. Things like this are nice to read, but they heap ridiculous expectations on a young player from a fanbase that he should never have to be dealing with.
*And by incredibly slim, I mean the chances of Roman sacking Rafa Benitez tomorrow to bring back Roberto Di Matteo would be significantly better than Ake becoming a noteworthy contributor to our first team already.
There are also some pretty massive issues with the logic in this article, at least from my perspective. It argues that Chelsea need to push their 17-year old to avoid developmental issues like the ones that supposedly struck Jeffrey Bruma and Michael Mancienne, but Chelsea were exceptionally aggressive with the development of both young defenders (if anything, hurting the development of both because of those aggressive loans). There is also the assertion that his height is a strength (they listed him at 5'10), which is far from ideal for a modern-day centerback.
Nathan Ake is a very nice prospect, but he's probably several years and a full time move to the midfield away from contributing to Chelsea's first team in any real capacity. It's a great thing that he got to make a cameo before he starts his inevitable string of loan spells, but the media really need to back off the hype machine a bit at this point. It's nice that they are looking to pick out some young players outside of La Masia to hype, and I applaud them for having noticed a kid from Chelsea's academy at such an early stage of his development. This is a bit overboard though, and it would be more than prudent to temper expectations by a considerable amount.