Chelsea’s academy has produced some world-class talent, but it’s also drawn criticism for how it treats its youngsters.
There are all too many examples of talented starlets who have come through the ranks at Stamford Bridge, but have spent nearly all their time out on loan.
Josh McEachran was a famous example.
The midfielder turns 28 next month, but many Chelsea fans will remember when he was tipped to become a Blues legend.
As a youngster, he spoke of looking up to Zinedine Zidane, Frank Lampard and Andres Iniesta.
There were even whispers as a teenager that he could go on to replicate some of those icons.
Gus Poyet told Goal that the first time he watched the Englishman has stayed with him.
“The whole stadium was talking about Josh McEachran after the game,” Poyet said.
“People were saying he was the next [Fernando] Redondo or [Pep] Guardiola.”
McEachran’s time at Chelsea was ultimately disrupted by loan spells – he was shipped out to five separate clubs – but also by having a host of different managers.
Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafa Benitez, and Jose Mourinho all coached him, with Ancelotti being the most impressed by the prodigious young talent.
He actually made 17 appearances in all competitions in the 2010/11 campaign and played for England at youth level, scoring three goals. His Chelsea debut had come in the Champions League against MSK Zilina in 2010.
Mourinho and Villas-Boas did not see his potential in the same way, and the arrival of Cesc Fabregas – who played in the same position – didn’t help matters.
So having been on loan at Swansea, Middlesbrough, Watford, Wigan and Vitesse he finally left west London in 2015, joining Brentford.
Why did he reject Real Madrid?
It could have been very different, though, as he recalled to The Telegraph in 2017 that he turned down offers from Manchester United and Real Madrid out of loyalty to his boyhood club.
“I was 16, at Chelsea, and my agent at the time said, ‘Real Madrid want you.’ It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? At that age.
“I had the chance to go to Real Madrid or Man United. Real Madrid had the contract waiting for me and they wanted all my family to fly over but I said, ‘No, I want to stay at Chelsea.’ I was a Chelsea fan.
“I just believed in myself that I was going to make it. Under Carlo, when I made my debut I was saying to myself ‘Ah, that was a good choice for me to say no to Real Madrid’, but looking back now maybe I should have.”
Where is he now?
McEachran actually got the chance to play against Chelsea in 2017 in the FA Cup with Brentford.
Since then, though, things have gone from bad to worse.
While he spent two years at Birmingham City, that spell was ravaged by injuries and in January, the club confirmed he would be released having not played a game all season.
He’s now a free agent.
It’s sad to dwell on what his career might have been, but here’s hoping he can find a new club soon and get back playing football as soon as possible.