Tino Anjorin: Chelsea facing fight to keep next teen midfield star
Few academies are getting a better showcase this season than Chelsea's. Whether by choice or forced by the club's transfer ban, Frank Lampard has turned to numerous homegrown talents in a bid to maintain the Blues' status among the European elite.
The latest to earn their opportunity was Billy Gilmour, whose star turns in midfield against both Liverpool and Everton in front of live television audiences in the UK should ensure that he becomes a household name sooner rather than later.
Gilmour, of course, does not have the same history as some of Chelsea's other young players in terms of his upbringing, with the Scot having been brought to west London from Rangers in 2017.
The next midfielder off the rank at Cobham, however, could not be more different.
Tino Anjorin joined Chelsea at Under-7s level, and has worked his way through the various age groups to now be on the cusp of earning a regular berth in Lampard's first-team squad.
A physically imposing presence who has been compared to Ruben Loftus-Cheek due to his stature, 18-year-old Anjorin has been the shining light in Chelsea's youth team this season, contributing 11 goals and six assists thus far.
Born to a football-obsessed family of Nigerian heritage, Anjorin was christened Faustino to pay homage to former Newcastle and Colombia forward Faustino Asprilla. It is a tradition that has run through the family, with his younger brother named Zico after the Brazilian legend.
His father, Sheriff, has played the lead role in overseeing his development, and revealed that he has been overpowering opponents from a very early age.
"When he was three-and-a-half, he went and joined in a training session with six-year-olds," Anjorin senior told Goal. "He was dribbling better and shooting with more power than those older than him.
"It was like he had been beamed back down to earth as a complete player overnight!
"After that, he was always the standout player; people knew him before he even knew how to spell his name. He is a goalscoring midfielder in the Frank Lampard mould. Lampard was one of his idols, but so were Lionel Messi and Zinedine Zidane.
"He has a high level of technical ability, great finishing quality and a great passing range. We felt that the Chelsea environment was perfect for Tino.
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"It has really stretched him. The training has always been harder than the matches, he's highly competitive and he just wants to get on the pitch and beat his opponent."
Having progressed through Blues' academy, Anjorin was part of the Under-18s side which won an unprecedented quadruple in 2018, with only the UEFA Youth League alluding him of the major trophies available to young players in England.
The Poole-born teenager made his first team bow in late September against Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup while his first Premier League appearance came on Sunday as he stepped off the bench for the closing stages of the 4-0 win over Everton.
Though he was overshadowed by the performance of Gilmour, it was clear that Anjorin will not struggle in senior football given his frame, though - like Loftus-Cheek - it has played a role in him picking up more injuries than he would have liked in his early career.
He also needs to work on building up both his speed and acceleration when running if he is to take the next step and become a regular first-team footballer at the top level.
Whether he makes that step at Chelsea or elsewhere, however, is up in the air somewhat.
With the Blues looking to tie down a number of their prodigious young talents, the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have all signed new contracts over the past 12 months.
Anjorin, however, has not been able to agree terms, and as such is now just over three months away from entering the final year of his current deal. Talks have been ongoing regarding a renewal for some time, with the Blues having previously been confident pen would be put to paper sooner rather than later.
Their interest in Birmingham City starlet Jude Bellingham, who is being heavily linked with Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, has further slowed matters, and there is some concern another of the club's brightest prospects may follow in the footsteps of Tariq Lamptey - who joined Brighton in January - and leave.
Chelsea must now fight to show Anjorin that he is in the right place to further his development, and handing the England youth international more first-team opportunities will likely help. But should they fail to tie him down then there is set to be a long list of suitors for one of the most impressive teenage footballers the Premier League currently has to offer.