For someone who only reluctantly took up football as a schoolboy, the powerful yet poised centre-back has had a remarkably successful time in the game thus far.
Good enough to be inducted into the Chelsea youth system at the age of nine, he broke into the FA set-up with the under-14s, featured in the England under-17 side that won the world title last year and recently sealed a move to the millionaires’ paradise of Monaco. Not bad for an 18-year-old kid from a south London housing estate.
Rumoured to be on the radar of Juventus, Valencia, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach, he would have reflected long and hard on the pros and cons of leaving Chelsea. After almost a decade with the club the emotional bonds were strong. But in the end he had two compelling reasons to go: a need to broaden his horizons and a desire not to be stuck on Chelsea’s everspinning temporary-transfer carousel.
Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, Chelsea have become infamous for annually loaning out a small army of fringe players and academy graduates, “parking” 40 such individuals this term. In the wake of two or three different external assignments, it’s relatively easy for a Stamford Bridge youngster to be forgotten and he didn’t want that to be his fate.
The Monaco raid was something of an “inside job” as the club’s director of sport Michael Emenalo spent a decade at Chelsea as chief scout and technical director and was therefore in an ideal position to target the young stopper.
Monaco fully understand that he is a work in progress. They realise he has no first-team experience and still has much to learn. But they know upmarket potential when they see it and are banking on him being ready for the first team in a year or two.
International...on duty for England under-19s