Jonathan Panzo

World Soccer - - Special Feature -

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

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