Lesley Ugochukwu relishing Chelsea midfield battle as he vows to prove long-term value

Fight ahead: Lesley Ugochukwu faces a real battle for first-team minutes in Chelsea’s stacked midfield unit  (Getty Images)
Fight ahead: Lesley Ugochukwu faces a real battle for first-team minutes in Chelsea’s stacked midfield unit (Getty Images)

Chelsea midfielder Lesley Ugochukwu believes he will make the required grade at Stamford Bridge despite facing stern competition from the likes Moises CaicedoEnzo Fernandez and Romeo Lavia.

The 19-year-old moved to west London from French club Rennes in July for £23million and was a far cheaper signing than many of his midfield counterparts.

Ugochukwu insists the decision to join Chelsea was a no-brainer despite also facing competition for places from English pair Conor Gallagher and Carney Chukwuemeka.

“It’s the same everywhere, in any team, you are not sure to play. When I arrived at Chelsea, I knew where I was going,” he told Le Parisien.

“It’s up to you to prove yourself, to show that you deserve your place. Personally, I have never been afraid of competition. I will learn from very good players like Enzo Fernandez, Moises Caicedo or Romeo Lavia, who is the same age as me. It’s up to me to go and get the most minutes.

“The learning that I have at Chelsea, daily and at weekends, will allow me to strengthen myself and mature in my game. When you are young, you have to play of course but there are trains that don’t pass twice.”

Ugochukwu has only made two short substitute appearances in the Premier League for Chelsea so far but played the full 90 minutes on his first start for the club in the 2-1 Carabao Cup win over AFC Wimbledon.

Now in France’s Under-21 team, he reflected on his surprise move to Stamford Bridge, adding: “I thought I would do the whole season with Rennes, but football goes fast. Chelsea had been following me for a while.

“It’s Chelsea! Just look at all the trophies they’ve won and the legends that have passed through. When a club of this stature comes to look for you, it’s very difficult to refuse.

“I was attracted by what they want to do and what they see in me. In relation to my ambitions too, I think it was perfect to leave at that time.

“They say I can become a really great midfielder if I put my all into it and everything goes well. It’s up to me to prove that I can have my place in the long-term. I wanted to take this step.”

Chelsea are now part of a multi-club model after parent company BlueCo bought RC Strasbourg in France’s top-flight back in June.

Strasbourg were rumoured to be keen to add Ugochukwu to their ranks after already signing new Chelsea winger Angelo Gabriel on loan.

Ugochukwu denied that a move to Patrick Vieira’s side was close after passing his pre-season audition under Mauricio Pochettino, however.

He explained: “There was never a question of a departure to Strasbourg.

“It came back to my ears, but I was never told to make a choice. The idea was always to do pre-season and if the coach likes what I do, I stay. In my mind it was clear, I wanted to stay at Chelsea. I gave 100 per cent to be part of this group.”