Remember the name: Xavier Mbuyamba
Born: 31 December 2001
Club career: MVV Maastricht (2012-2019), Barcelona (2019-2020), Chelsea (2020-)
Mbuyamba is almost 6ft 5in, Dutch, plays at centre-back, and looks like he was made in a lab designed to engineer super-athletes, so inevitably he’s been branded the next Virgil van Dijk. So far, so promising.
But finding the next Van Dijk or the next De Bruyne is pretty much the hardest thing to achieve in professional football. Chelsea trialled Mbuyamba a couple of years ago and wanted to sign him from his hometown club MVV Maastricht (where he developed as a youth player) in the 2018/19 season but their transfer ban prevented the deal from happening, and then Barcelona swooped in.
Chelsea have finally got their man, though. They just signed Mbuyamba from Barcelona on a three-year deal. He’ll spend next season in the Blues’ development squad, but it will be interesting to see if he’s fast-tracked to the senior squad – if he’s anything like as talented as Van Dijk (a monumentally big if), it wouldn’t be a shock, particularly as Chelsea’s defence is its obvious weak point.
Watch Xavier in action for Maastricht (you’ll notice him playing at both centre-back and right-back):
First takeaway: he’s massive. Second: he’s good in the air, naturally, but he’s also a lot better with the ball at his feet than you might expect. You can see why Europe’s top clubs scouted him.