After joining Chelsea from Exeter City in the 2017 summer transfer window, 16-year-old Ethan Ampadu was immediately fast-tracked to the first-team under former head coach Antonio Conte. He amassed 407 minutes in all competitions, coming close to setting new age-based records for the club in the process and also made his senior international debut for Wales before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in April. But his first season in a Chelsea shirt was a big success relative to his age, and a sure sign of wonderful things to come.
Except it hasn’t yet. A coaching change in the summer, which meant a switch back to two center backs, and multiple specialist midfielder signings as well, resulted in very few opportunities for Ampadu. He notched just 283 minutes in 5 appearances all season, with zero involvement in the Premier League. Even his Wales appearances dried up as he battled match fitness issues and “growing pains” in the second half of the season.
Still, that hasn’t stopped teams like newly promoted Aston Villa from keeping a keen eye on him, especially as he returned to competitive action last week with Wales, collecting his 8th cap at just 18 years of age.
As per the report from Stuart James of The Guardian, Villa are in strong contention to sign Ampadu on loan for next season. Given their success with Tammy Abraham last season and the presence of John Terry as assistant coach, a loan move may be an attractive proposition for Ampadu, giving him a chance to test himself against Premier League opposition regularly. Able to play both in central defence and midfield, Ampadu needs playing time to ensure his development stays on track.
Chelsea’s transfer ban, combined with the injury to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and the uncertain future of Mateo Kovačić, could open up opportunities back at Stamford Bridge, too, but a lot will depend on what
Frank Lampard a new head coach decides. Yet another reason to get that deal done first and quickly!