Top 5: Chelsea starlets

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Chelsea were once branded as "old" by Sir Alex Ferguson.

In 2008 he was quoted as wondering how a team "in their thirties" could possibly progress and improve.

It was clear to see where he was coming from. At the time, Chelsea were a team whose first eleven primarily consisted of players over the age of 30. This included Ricardo Carvalho, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack, Deco and Didier Drogba.

The club decided to take affirmative action to rectify this problem and sought to reduce the average age of their squad.

They did this in two ways. Firstly, by dipping into the market to find potential as opposed to the finished product for an inflated price. This paid dividends as players like Oscar, Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois were acquired at young ages and with plenty of time to develop.

The second plan of action was to invest in the academy. This has led to Chelsea taking part in four of the last six FA Youth Cup finals and winning twice, whilst also coming runners-up in last year's Nextgen Series.

This positive action has prompted the development of some excellent youngsters. Here is a look at the top five:

5. Thomas Kalas

Kalas is a versatile defender from the Czech Republic who can play at right-back or centre-back. He is strong in the air and at 20-years-of-age has plenty of time to get a regular spot in the Chelsea team and build on his first cap for his country. He will probably not make the team regularly this year, bar an injury to one of the senior centre-backs, but will be hoping for a few appearances to help with his development.

Kalas moved to Chelsea in 2010 but was sent out on loan to his previous club, Sigma Olomouc, for the season. This was followed by a two-year loan spell at Vitesse, which would prove to be the defenders opportunity to show his ability to the world and make a name for himself.

He came on in leaps and bounds and was seen fit to rejoin the Chelsea squad for the 2013/14 campaign. After a successful pre-season where he made three appearances he was drafted in as a reserve defender. Unfortunately, he fractured his fibula and was sidelined for the beginning of the season but he has healed nicely and was rewarded with his first showing in the win against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup.

4. Nathaniel Chalobah

Chalobah is seen as one of the Chelsea Academy's finest recruits of recent years. He came through all the youth levels and played in the reserves, experiencing a huge amount of success. He captained the reserve team as well as the youth squad, with whom he won the FA Youth Cup in 2012.

This earned him a loan spell at Gianfranco Zola's Watford side that narrowly missed out on promotion. His year in the Championship was incredibly successful and he scored five goals in 38 appearances. The goals included two stunning strikes against Burnley and Leicester City. His versatility came to the fore as he moved from being a centre-back for Chelsea to pulling the strings in midfield for Watford.

He is currently on loan at Nottingham Forest and has notched up a number of performances and even a goal. He has not managed to set Billy Davies' team alight yet but his talent is undoubted and the 18-year-old is sure to be a mainstay in future Chelsea and even England starting XIs.

3. Lucas Piazon

Piazon has blown the roof off in the Netherlands for Vitesse this year. After a disappointing loan spell at Malaga last year, he moved to the Dutch team and has become immensely influential. Five goals and five assists in seven league games tells the whole story but his ability was never more appreciated than in the come-back win against Heerenveen.

The Brazilian scored two goals and supplied the winner (scored by fellow Chelsea loanee Van Aanholt) to ensure that Vitesse turned a two-goal deficit into a 3-2 win.

He has one senior league appearance for Chelsea - their 8-0 win against Aston Villa in 2012. The game proved to be quite a roller coaster ride with Piazon setting up fellow Brazilian Ramires for a goal with a lovely pass, before winning a penalty himself. He took the penalty but, unfortunately for him, it was saved.

Piazon has the misfortune of being an attacking midfielder in the current Chelsea team - one which is filled with world-class attacking players. He has the quality but he needs to be blessed with a lot of luck to break into the first team.

2. Romelu Lukaku

Many doubted Mourinho's decision to send Lukaku on loan for another season. After a hugely successful spell at West Bromwich Albion in 2012/13 he returned to Chelsea hoping for the chance to prove more competent than Chelsea's current strikers

His pre-season was fantastic, scoring many goals and making a mark in Torres' absence due to the Confederations Cup. However, as the new season started it was obvious he would not have as many opportunities as he needed to continue his positive improvement and development.

His move to Everton meant that he would be playing regularly in a World Cup year and he would be in perfect condition to take over the striking responsibilities for Chelsea in 2014. His loan spell could hardly be going better with five goals in his first six league games and he is showing Chelsea what they are missing. Chelsea's strikers (Torres, Ba and Eto'o) have a combined three league goals to their name - a measly total in comparison.

Lukaku will be hoping that 2014 is his year to break into the Chelsea team after his £17million move from Anderlecht in 2011. If he can continue his current form for Everton and impress in the World Cup next June there is no reason why he should not be spearheading the Blues attack for years to come.

1. Thibaut Courtois

Courtois has developed into one of - if not THE - best young goalkeepers in Europe. He was bought from Genk after almost single-handily securing them the title and was immediately shipped off to Atletico Madrid where he would spend three fruitful seasons. He has risen to prominence and has attracted interest from Barcelona amongst others but he still wants to return to Chelsea where he would take over from Petr Cech. However, he has stated himself that he will only be returning to play and that he will move if he is left on the bench.

Courtois is a fantastic talent and is a prime example of Chelsea's new transfer policy. According to he was valued at €6million in 2011 and now he is worth €25million. His talent was identified early and at 19-years-of-age he was snapped up and developed into a world-class player.

He is without a doubt the cream of the crop in terms of Chelsea's promising youngsters and is guaranteed a fantastic future and a career rich with personal and team achievements.

Chelsea have a hugely promising group of youngsters and the fans will be hoping that these can be promoted into the first team in coming seasons. There is very little that is as exciting to a football fan than watching a youth player make it at the very top level and become a club legend. Chelsea fans have been left waiting for this feeling since John Terry rose to prominence so very long ago.

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Romelu Lukaku
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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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