This starlet can become Chelsea’s biggest bargain since Cesar Azpilicueta under Maurizio Sarri

With all the noise last summer around Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger coming into the side, Ethan Ampadu joining Chelsea from Exeter City all but slipped under the radar.

Bringing youngsters into the club is nothing new for Chelsea, and that same summer they did the same with Billy Gilmour from Rangers and Daishawn Redan from Ajax, so there was nothing particularly new that would have been thought about Ampadu.

However, the slight difference was they were getting a player who had some first team experience already having made 13 appearances for the Grecians before making his dream switch to Stamford Bridge.

Of course then everyone assumed that it would just be a season in the academy and Blues fans would never actually see him play, however that wasn’t the case.

Antonio Conte kept Ampadu around the first team throughout the 2017/18 campaign, handing him a League Cup debut against Nottingham Forest and then his Premier League debut in the 3-0 win at Huddersfield Town.

In all, Ampadu made seven first team appearances in his debut season in west London before his ankle injury in the UEFA Youth League quarter-final win over Real Madrid cut his season off early.

Instead of a loan spell this season, Maurizio Sarri has decided to keep Ampadu around once again with the first team, but as yet the youngster has not featured in any of the opening four Premier League matches.

So is it a case of wasted talent that the youngster is not seeing any sort of time with the team?

It is interesting to see where the Italian might play Ampadu, and the recently released Europa League squad is a key sign of maybe where Sarri sees the youngster playing.

During pre-season, Ampadu featured next to David Luiz as a centre-back, but that was almost out of necessity with World Cup players like Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill yet to return from holiday.

However, the fact that Ampadu has been named in the Europa League squad for the upcoming campaign, yet experienced and Premier League-winning midfielder Danny Drinkwater has not, is a pretty clear sign.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs employed Ampadu as a defensive midfielder for both UEFA Nations League matches over the weekend and the 17-year-old looked more than comfortable.

With Cesc Fabregas still recovering from injury and Bakayoko having been loaned to AC Milan, it would be no surprise to see Ampadu playing as Jorginho’s replacement at the base of the midfield in the Carabao Cup and the Europa League.

“You could say there’s been frustration on one hand, but at the same time I’m getting experience training with the players,” Ampadu told Sky Sports after the win over Ireland.

“I’m just trying to improve to get into the team. This season’s plans are this season’s plans and at the moment I’ve just to keep improving to try and get in the team. I want to show the manager what I can do.”

It’s clear that Ampadu wants to get game time and is no mood to be sitting around not playing, which is a great feeling to have but at Chelsea there have been plenty before him that have failed to get that chance.

The opening signs under Sarri have not been entirely promising, and the Italian’s history with one former Chelsea youngster might be something of a concern if Ampadu wants to be a full-time starter.

During the 2015/16 season, Blues academy player Nathaniel Chalobah was sent on loan to Napoli as a 20-year-old, which also happened to be Sarri’s debut season as their head coach.

There wasn’t much of a chance for Chalobah as he made just five substitute appearances in Serie A, culminating in around 29 minutes of play in all, while getting two starts and another substitute appearance in the Europa League.

It would be Chalobah’s final loan deal before playing one year under Conte, making just one Premier League start and coming off the bench nine times in the league, before being sold to Watford.

Sarri obviously wants his players to pick up even the smallest of things straight away and that might come as a warning to Ampadu.

“I got there and I’d never practiced a throw-in in my life and I got there and they had about ten different signals, so they gave me a sheet of paper on my first day to study these signals,” Chalobah said.

“I’ve gone, ‘’What? Sorry?’ They said, ‘yeah, you have to study the signals for the throw-ins because the midfielders are involved.’

“So at this point I am lost and like I said, again he got really impatient with me because he expected me to pick up quite quickly. I used to stand behind Hamšík and follow what he’s doing.

“I don’t think I picked it up until about two months, because there were so many signals, so many throw-ins, so many corners and you had to be in the exact place that he wanted you to be in.”

Sarri is obviously a man that wants his players to press and learn quickly, and Chalobah, despite playing little, revealed just how much Ampadu might be able to learn from Sarri

“On the defensive side of things, in the formation that we played, it was when to press and when you don’t press,” he added. “And it was almost like there was a line in the middle of the pitch, it wasn’t drawn on there but it was like a marker for you to know whether you go or whether you don’t.

“And when I did it, it worked out. So when I came back to England and we played in games, I used that method still and literally it’s what I still use now and it’s something I picked up but it’s also something that I learned.

“It was a time for me to learn about positioning, to actually study the game.”

So while game time might be tough to get for Ampadu, the development side of his game could well come on leaps and bounds under Sarri and take his chance when it comes to it.

A tribunal finally announced that Chelsea would have to pay the League Two side a maximum of £2.5m. In this day and age of inflated prices that is an absolute steal, and he could be the biggest bargain of Chelsea’s future since Cesar Azpilicueta.

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