There is now a growing possibility that Chelsea fans will never see Levi Colwill make a first-team appearance.
The highly-rated youngster sat out the club’s first pre-season game here in Las Vegas on Saturday. He was sidelined after complaining of a tight thigh and sat out training on Friday, the day before the 2-1 win over Mexican side Club America at the Allegiant Stadium.
Although the thigh problem has been described as minor and won’t hold Colwill back for long, the situation regarding his future is much more concerning.
Talk of him going elsewhere is nothing new.
There is a long list of clubs interested in acquiring the 19-year-old, who impressed on loan at Huddersfield Town last season finishing third in the Championship and then in the play-off final but lost to Nottingham Forest for the Premier League. League. promotion.
The fact that Colwill has three years left on his contract should normally be reassured. The club are in a strong position and can insist that he is not for sale.
But will Chelsea do it? And does Colwill really want to stay?
When the central defender spoke to Athleticism in May he was trying to help Huddersfield return to English football‘s Premier League. It was obvious that he is a youngster with a lot of ambition.
Colwill said: “I think I’m ready (for the Premier League). I’ve learned a lot this year, so the next step I hope will be in the Premier League, with Chelsea, Huddersfield or whoever. The fact that he was rather vague about where he was going to play in 2022-23 was telling.
Colwill loves Chelsea, and why wouldn’t he? He’s been with them since joining the academy at under-nine level. Yet just because he has a deep affection for the west side of London doesn’t mean he’s going to settle for becoming a part-figure or serial moneylender.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel has already made it pretty clear what he is prioritizing right now.
As one of the best managers in the game and having already brought the club a European Cup and a Club World Cup during his 18 months in charge, he wants to add more trophies to his collection as soon as possible.
Chelsea’s business in the summer transfer market has been conducted with this in mind. Two players have been bought so far and both are finished items – Raheem Sterling (27, 77 England caps) and Kalidou Koulibaly (31, 62 Senegal caps). Striker Sterling and centre-back Koulibaly weren’t acquired as players for long-term development – it’s about being ready to help their new club challenge silverware straight away.
Tuchel does not want to stop there either. He is keen to sign with two other defenders.
A move to bring back Sterling’s former Manchester City team-mate Nathan Ake (27, 27 Dutch cap) for a second stint at Stamford Bridge has fallen through, but Tuchel maintains an interest in Paris Saint-Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe (26 years old, 28 caps in France) and Jules Kounde from Seville (23 years old, 11 caps in France).
The message is loud and clear. If either or both Kimpembe and Kounde join, where is the path for Colwill to get playing time? There really isn’t.
Indeed, it is understood that if Chelsea add even one more defender, they will be looking to leave before the September 1 transfer deadline.
Some reading this might argue that the position is a sign of not being ready to fight for your place. But let’s be real here.
As things stand, Colwill already appear to be behind Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah in the pecking order.
One or two more additions will relegate him to fifth or sixth choice – and that’s not even taking into account the possibility of club captain Cesar Azpilicueta remaining amid Barcelona links, not to mention Emerson Palmieri and Ethan Ampadu, who as both spent him away last season. for rent.
Colwill has been tipped to be an England international one day.
He saw Chelsea academy graduate Marc Guehi, who moved to Crystal Palace last year, achieve that dream in March. Another defender developed at the club’s Cobham academy, Fikayo Tomori, joined Italian giants AC Milan last summer and ended up with a Serie A title and a call-up to the England squad. .
They showed Colwill, and others in the youth ranks, that leaving Chelsea doesn’t necessarily mean a step back. It can be a player’s making.
Promoting Chalobah to the senior team 12 months ago and Conor Gallagher this year after his impressive 2021-22 loan season with Palace, Tuchel cannot be accused of being anti-youth.
But in his selection against Club America here, he ignored academy talents Billy Gilmour, Harvey Vale and Tino Anjorin. They were all ruled out on Day 22, as serial disappointments Kenedy and Ross Barkley were eliminated in front of a crowd of 47,223 at the home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders.
Tuchel admitted he felt regrets. “Everyone has a chance,” he said after the game. “I was a bit sad because some youngsters had to be out (of the squad) due to injury or because we had too many players for two 20-man squads we were using. Some others players deserved to play in. For example, Harvey Vale had a fantastic tournament with England Under-19s and did very well in training.
But it’s worth noting that he also played against Barkley and Kenedy in the last Premier League game of the last season against Watford in May, so it’s not just an isolated case.
It’s hard to see what Tuchel or Chelsea benefit from those two minutes given how little they have contributed in all the years they have been at Stamford Bridge. There is little they can learn and they have shown everything they can (or cannot) do before.
Anyway, back to Colwill.
Palace are believed to be confident of securing his services for a possible reunion with Guehi. Others in the hunt include Southampton, Fulham, Leicester City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton.
If he makes it to one and features regularly, there will be hope that England will call soon enough. Impress for another top-flight club and one of the title contenders – yes, even Chelsea – will want to spend big money signing him anyway.
Chelsea fans may wonder why another loan is out of the question. Well, there’s no point agreeing to a temporary transfer when other Premier League clubs are willing to spend millions to sign you on a permanent transfer. Moreover, a loan will only delay the decision on Colwill’s future for another 12 months, when a decision can be made now.
Anyone looking for a more positive outcome, to cling to some sort of hope that Colwill might stick around after all, should look to the events of last summer’s window. Chelsea were ready to sign Kounde but could not agree a fee with Sevilla. Chalobah was then promoted, having had a positive impact on Tuchel during the preparations.
Colwill is believed to have started pre-season hoping to emulate Chalobah, who ended up making 30 first-team appearances. If Chelsea fail to achieve their goals, history could repeat itself. It’s not like he expects or demands to be in the first XI every week. A solid supporting role, being a part of things on a fairly regular basis, will do as it continues to develop.
Tuchel told the youngsters on the trip to use Chalobah as a model for what may happen. The 23-year-old also offered his own advice on how youngsters like Colwill can earn a place.
“I just think you have to impress, be ready, that’s what I did last season and I want to do the same,” he said. “So the players who came back from loan, they really have to do the same, give it your all, you never know what’s going to happen.”
However, it should be remembered that Chelsea’s new co-owners will have to sell some players to balance the books and comply with Financial Fair Play rules.
The previous regime raised as much as £89m ($105m) by cashing in Tomori, Guehi and Tammy Abraham last summer. A similar amount could be accumulated by the departures of Colwill, Anjorin and Armando Broja. They’re easier to sell because their salaries and asking prices are relatively low compared to more experienced players, and they have a lot of abilities that teams think they can improve on. Buying clubs recognize the opportunity to make a significant profit later.
Tuchel is keen to emphasize during this pre-season American tour, which now takes place in Charlotte, North Carolina for a friendly match on Wednesday against the city’s MLS club, that everyone can be part of it.
“You can discuss and make plans for all these players, but they’re not worth the paper you write on because they can change every minute, any training session,” he said on Friday. . “You just have to be ready.
“I think all the players who come from loan or from different situations and want to make a statement here, they are more than invited and supported. We are open, but they are well aware that the task is very high because the group is competitive and the group is strong. And yet I feel that everyone is proud to be back, proud to be in the Chelsea team, and from there they are responsible for their own careers and they have our support.
Colwill definitely wants to take on that responsibility, but with Tuchel considering signing other players in his position, he now looks increasingly likely to do so for someone else.
(Top photo: Getty Images)