It’s been a rough couple years for young Xavier Mbuyamba.
The Dutch youth international was all set to sign for Chelsea two summers ago, but our transfer ban eventually prevented that. So instead, the youngster traded his hometown, boyhood club MVV Maastricht for none other than Barcelona instead. An upgrade, surely, but one that left the teenager disillusioned by the political drama in Catalonia and what he saw as a lack of trust in his abilities, stuck as he was in the youth team (not even the B-team).
So, when Chelsea came calling again last summer, he didn’t hesitate to engineer that move at last, cancelling his Barca deal and signing on a free with the Blues. But just as things were looking up, Mbuyamba tore his meniscus (and/or ACL) just a few days after his arrival, then suffered a setback in his recovery a few months later, which delayed his return to the pitch until mid-April, when he finally made his official Chelsea (U23) debut, and even scored a goal!
But major knee injuries almost always take a good while to fully recover from, even with modern sports medicine. So Mbuyamba remained with the U23s through the end of last season (in part also due to COVID protocols) and in preseason as well, and it’s possible that he will have to go out on loan this season. That’s not exactly the future anyone envisioned, including the 19-year-old himself, but it’s the future we have to deal with.
“When I signed, Frank Lampard was still the trainer. He was very urging to get me and wanted to talk to me when I was still playing at MVV. That was the plan, but already in my second training in Under 23 it went wrong. I got badly injured and was out for eight months. When I came back Lampard had already been fired.”
“[By then] the first team remained very much in its own bubble. There was also little overlap of players between the first and Under 23. My goal was to train with the first next season in preparation...”
Obviously, that has still yet to happen.
Fortunately, Mbuyamba has shown a strong mental focus throughout his recovery, and enters the new season with confidence renewed.
“I know there is a lot of pressure on me at Chelsea. I come from FC Barcelona, I am talked about a lot and I get the stamp ‘the new Virgil van Dijk’. I don’t care. I show that I can handle it and be as good as they say.”
-Xavier Mbuyamba; source: NOS via Google Translate
Mbuyamba played the full-90 in Chelsea U23’s first match of the PL2 season, a 2-2 draw against Spurs. Hopefully we will get to see him with the Chelsea first-team some day soon as well.