Jeremie Boga is one of the hottest prospects in the Chelsea system, an assessment he certainly did not invalidate with his eye-catching second half performance on Wednesday in the preseason friendly against Wycombe Wanderers. While a couple small injuries put a bit of a damper on his season last year, he's already well established at the Chelsea U21 level. And he's still just 17.
Which of course now brings us to that most important step of bridging the gap from the U21 to the first-team level. Do we keep Boga at the club to train and develop and maybe receive a few meaningless senior minutes in cups and such? Do we loan him out? If so, where? To what level? And once that's done, how do we reintegrate him into Chelsea? There is no easy, obvious answer. One option seems to be a loan to La Liga, according to the Daily Star (so emphasis on "seems").
Chelsea wonder kid Jeremie Boga is a target for Rayo Vallecano. The Spanish side want to take the 17 year-old attacking midfielder on loan for the season. A number of Championship clubs are also keen but Rayo are ready to offer French starlet Boga first-team football in Spain's top division.
-source: Daily Star
Mid-table Rayo did utilize 19-year-old Saúl Ñíguez (on loan from Atlético) over 30 times last season, so there's perhaps a precedent here that makes their claim of first team action for Boga not seem crazy. To be sure, playing regular top flight football in Spain (or in any of Europe's top leagues, for that matter) as a 17-year-old would be incredibly fantastic. But it does seem an awful risky proposition. We only have to look at another prospect in the system to see how there are no guarantees at 17.
When Josh McEachran was 17, he started two Champions League matches for Chelsea. There may have been no real stakes riding on the game in Marseille with Chelsea already assured of top spot in the group, but the fact that he played the full 90 spoke volumes about his talent and promise. In retrospect, it may have been the worst thing to happen to him. While that's an exaggeration -- playing in the Champions League at 17 is better than not playing in the Champions League at 17 -- the expectations and the anticipation for Josh to be the next great thing at Chelsea became exaggerated, too.
He's now 21, and we're still waiting for that next step. Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers (while at Swansea) both kept him in the basket in 2011-12. McEachran did find success at Middlesborough the season after though he did fade a bit towards the end of the season as is not uncommon with youngsters, especially those looking as malnourished as he so often does. Last season's loan spells to Watford and Wigan failed to unearth any real progress as well. His three failed loans and his time under AVB all share a common theme of good intentions and bad results. All four managers (AVB, Rodgers, Zola, Rosler) spoke highly of the kid, intending to play him as much as reasonably possible. Yet there's been no progress and very few matches to boot.
So what's next for McEachran? An injury he picked up at the Toulon Tournament this summer seems to be affecting his preseason still as he was not part of the Chelsea squad on Wednesday, presumably training with the U21s instead. And now, here's Matt Law of the Telegraph with a rather weird and ultimately a bit sad update on that situation.
Josh McEachran has asked Chelsea to enroll him in Spanish lessons after expressing an interest in spending a year overseas.
Chelsea are yet to decide whether they will allow McEachran out for a fifth loan spell in 2½ years. But that has not stopped two Spanish second division clubs, Real Zaragoza and Recreativo Huelva, from expressing an interest in taking McEachran on a season-long loan.
Championship clubs would be interested in taking McEachran on loan and allowing him to stay in England this season, but the 21-year-old is excited by the thought of going to Spain.
Both of those Spanish clubs are just second division clubs (not a good contrast with Boga's suitors), but whatever helps Josh rediscover his mojo would be fantastic. Even after all these years of talking about him, he is still just 21. It is still not too late to live up to the expectations set for him at 17, however unlikely they were.