Tuchel may already have new Chelsea centre-back option in Frank Lampard's teenager signing

Chelsea academy star Xavier Mbuyamba has spoken about his intention to fight for a spot in Thomas Tuchel’s first-team squad in the upcoming pre-season.

There has been a lot of expectation of the 19-year-old since he arrived from Barcelona last summer.

Standing at 6ft 4in (1.95m) tall and often being compared to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk — which he is clearly aware of, it is easy to see why.

Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was certainly a big fan.

“When I signed [for Chelsea], Frank Lampard was still the coach,” Mbuyamba told Dutch outlet NOS.

“He was very insistent on getting me and already wanted to speak to me when I was still playing at MVV [Maastricht].”

Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Injury blocked Mbuyamba’s promised path into senior football

The initial plan was to let the young centre-back train with the development squad (U-23) for a while before introducing him to the first team.

Then the unfortunate long-term meniscus injury happened, and there is a new manager in charge of the first-team.

“That was the plan, but already at my second training with U-23s it went wrong.

“I got badly injured and was out for eight months. When I came back, Lampard had already been sacked.”

Photo by Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Mbuyamba’s Chelsea debut and new goal

Meanwhile, Mbuyamba made his Chelsea U-23s debut as a substitute in the PL2 win over Southampton in April. It was a remarkable comeback after such a long absence, and he even got on the scoresheet.

Now that the 2020/21 season is coming to an end, Mbuyamba has set himself a clear goal: to get an opportunity to impress Tuchel ahead of the new season.

He has yet to have that opportunity since Chelsea have understandably limited the number of academy players in first-team training amid the pandemic situation.

“The first team stays very much in its own bubble,” the centre-back added.

“There is also little overlap of players between the first and U-23s.

“My goal is to train with the first team next season in the pre-season, I hope to hear that soon.”

Photo by Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chronicle view

While an eight-month absence might have had a big impact on his development as a player, some would argue that he would be able to physically compete in senior football with his frame.

At the moment, however, it remains unclear whether Tuchel consider him ready for a first-team promotion.

The Chelsea manager certainly values the physical aspect of his team, making his team decisions based on players’ heights at times.

But during Andreas Christensen’s injury absence recently, Tuchel invited Levi Colwill to join the first-team training, and not Mbuyamba.

Photo by Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Obviously, Mbuyamba has just returned from an injury spell and that might have played a part in the decision.

But if Chelsea are looking to sign a new defender this summer, as widely reported, there is no harm in giving Mbuyamba an opportunity to prove himself in the pre-season.

A Chelsea fan who loves football statistics. Studied sports journalism at the University of Sunderland.