Who is Thierno Ballo? Meet Chelsea's new 16-year-old Austrian wonderkid

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The Blues won the race to sign the striker who announced himself as a special talent with two goals against England's Under-17s as a 14-year-old

Thierno Ballo is just 16 and only arrived at Chelsea three days ago. However, the striking sensation does not lack confidence.

"I hope to make it to the first team soon," he revealed in an exclusive interview with DAZN, "maybe even next year."

It would not come as too much of a surprise, either. After all, we are talking about a prodigious talent who was just 14 years of age when he netted twice for Austria's Under-17s in a European Championship qualifier against their England counterparts.

It was a performance of such quality that all of Europe's top clubs stood up and took notice, but it was Chelsea who won the race to sign one of the most exciting young players in Europe by wowing the Viktoria Koln starlet with the facilities at their Cobham Training Centre.

"I have seen the youth academies of all the clubs who had an interest in me," he explained. "And Chelsea has the best youth system."

The Blues certainly have an excellent pedigree in that regard. Chelsea have claimed four of the past five FA Youth Cups, won the UEFA Youth League in 2015 and 2016, while they also became the first club to record an 'academy treble' last season.

Ballo will begin his Blues career working with Jody Morris and his highly competitive Under-18s side but the early signs are that the attacker will have little trouble adapting to the English game.

Although Ballo only arrived in west London when he turned 16 on January 2, he has already played several friendlies for Chelsea and netted five times in one outing against West Ham.

New Chelsea signing Ballo targets first-team spot

Moving to Stamford Bridge is a "dream" for the wonderkid Posted by Goal.com on Friday, 5 January 2018

Ballo, though, is aware that adjusting to life in London may not be straightforward but, given he was born in Guinea and moved to Austria when he was five, he is confident he will quickly acclimatise.

"For me, it's the best thing to go abroad early," he enthuses. "And I believe that this is the best way for other Austrian talents. I want to make the next step in England.

"I have to concentrate totally on football. I am confident. Football really means everything to me. It's my dream to play at a professional level.

"Of course, it's sometimes hard to move that often and learn new languages. But, when your parents support you, it's way easier. You get used to the circumstances."

Thierno Ballo Austria England

Ballo, who started his career with Bayer Leverkusen before moving to Viktoria Koln on the advice of his former youth-team coach Peter Huemerlehner, has proven just as adaptable on the field as he is off it. 

The Linz native is a fast and versatile No.9 capable of playing in wide areas. However, he prefers to operate as a more modern wideman, cutting inside to shoot rather than hug the touchline. 

It is, therefore, unsurprising for a teenager who grew up in Germany that his idol is a player who achieved fame with a similar skill set.

"Lukas Podolski is a role model for me because he is a very strong offensive player," Ballo enthuses. "He was and is one of the best players in Germany."

Podolski, of course, became a popular figure in the Premier League at Arsenal and Ballo is now hoping to follow in his hero's footsteps by achieving even more with one of the Gunners' London rivals.

"Some people can't believe that I have really joined Chelsea," he admits. "I did not expect it either. But now the dream has come true.

"It's totally cool and I am looking forward to playing with all the top players at Chelsea. I can make it to the professional level if I continue with my hard work and train even harder."

With that kind of attitude, coupled with his considerable talent, maybe Ballo could indeed force his way into Antonio Conte's first-team plans by next year.

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