Just one week ago, the pessimism seeping out of Stamford Bridge could not have been alleviated by even the most fruitful thinkers among the Chelsea fanbase, but after successive victories against Leeds United in the Premier League and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, optimism is borne anew.
Manager Graham Potter has certainly received some respite after advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals and narrowing the gap on Tottenham Hotspur in fourth in the league, with the two wins coming off the back of a woeful run that left Chelsea boasting just two victories from 15 matches across all competitions.
There is fresh positivity in west London, but the situation surrounding stalwart N’Golo Kante taints the recent success, with the 31-year-old midfielder’s future at the outfit up in the air.
Signed from Premier League champions Leicester City for £30m in 2016, Kante has been instrumental in clinching a plethora of major honours including the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League across his 262 appearances.
But this season, beset with a detrimental hamstring injury and consequently missing 33 competitive matches at present, the club must consider their options, with the Frenchman out of contract in a matter of months.
With this in mind, Blues technical director Christopher Vivell might be inclined to delve into the youth ranks and continue the trend that saw the likes of Reece James and Mason Mount find a home in the Chelsea starting XI.
One prudent option could well be that of Leo Castledine.
Who is Leo Castledine?
In 2020, the prodigy departed AFC Wimbledon after seven years to join Chelsea’s prestigious Cobham academy, and he has thus far impressed every step of his development, now within touching distance of a breakthrough onto the senior scene.
According to Chelsea’s official website, Castledine is “an attacking midfield player who has the ability to play box-to-box, he likes to create and score goals and is very tenacious in the tackle.”
Will Castledine make it at Chelsea?
The teenage “talent” – as dubbed by Joe Flemons – has made 72 total appearances for the Blues youth ranks, scoring 22 goals and serving seven assists, and this term has plundered 11 goals and two assists from 30 outings, lauded by creative agency KIN for one “wonder strike” this term.
Should the youngster be offered the platform to shine, he might indeed find a place in the home currently occupied by World Cup winner Kante, whose robust and combative brilliance in his sweeping duties sometimes leave the masses unaware of just how sublime his offensive work can be.
As per FBref, the £290k-per-week gem ranks among the top 8% of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for shot-creating actions, the top 1% for progressive carries and the top 17% for assists per 90, illustrating the expansive scope of his game that threads far beyond the industrious facet to his arsenal.
And with Castledine boasting ‘tenacity’ and ‘creativity’ in abundance, he could be the box-to-box prodigy capable of adopting the mantle of one of the Premier League’s greatest contemporary stars.
Considering this, Potter must consider unleashing the precocious 18-year-old talent in the coming months; while the lucrative spending spree under new owner Todd Boehly has provided a new-look sheen to the club, acknowledging Stamford Bridge’s roots and the success of the likes of James and Mount must not fall from memory.
Castledine could just be the perfect heir to replace one of the Premier League’s most stellar modern midfielders.