Strikers have been dominating the headlines at Chelsea over the past few weeks.
You’ve got Romelu Lukaku coming in from Inter for a whopping £97.5m, and then there’s Tammy Abraham and the £40m exit that has been dragged out beyond belief (it’s Roma who are leading the charge these days).
With so much focus on those two, 19-year-old Armando Broja has flown somewhat under the radar.
The academy graduate returned to the club this summer after bagging ten goals in 30 appearances during the customary loan spell with Vitesse last year – a return good enough to make him the highest scoring teenager across Europe’s top ten leagues – and he’s now preparing for his first real taste of English football with Southampton.
The Saints are on the lookout for a new striker after selling Danny Ings to Aston Villa and they were prepared to take a gamble on Broja, who is looking to use the move as a platform to prove to Thomas Tuchel that he deserves a spot in the Chelsea squad next season.
The boss is already well aware of Broja, who played a major part in the Blues’ pre-season. He netted in victories over both Peterborough United and Bournemouth, and there had even been suggestions that the Albanian had done enough to convince Tuchel to hand him a back-up role this year.
Then came Chelsea’s pursuit of Lukaku, which would obviously limit the amount of minutes that could be handed to Broja. Spending too much time on the bench won’t benefit anyone, so it was decided that Southampton could benefit from his skillset this year.
A versatile forward who is capable of playing out wide if needed, Broja made real waves in the Eredivisie last year. His combination of physicality, agility and the standard intelligence that is fed to all Chelsea graduates these days saw him force his way into Vitesse’s plans around November, and he didn’t give up his spot in the squad after that.
Happy with his back to goal, Broja played the Olivier Giroud role at times last year, dropping deep to hold up possession and feed the ball to advancing teammates, but unlike the Frenchman, he has the speed and fitness to make line-breaking runs, allowing him to ask all sorts of questions of defenders.
Tuchel has confessed to wanting a striker like that in his squad, and while it’s Lukaku who will get the gig for the foreseeable future, Broja now has the chance to force his way into the boss’ plans for the coming seasons.
At Southampton, he’ll provide a very different threat to Ings. Broja doesn’t have the same speed but compensates for that with the added physicality and a playing style which could well see him thrive in Ralph Hasenhuttl’s system.
Expect to see Broja dropping deep to collect a pass from James Ward-Prowse, before using his link-up play to try and send Moussa Djenepo, Theo Walcott, Nathan Redmond or Che Adams through on goal.
There could even be a bond between Broja and former Chelsea teammate Valentino Livramento. The young right-back, who has impressed in pre-season after sealing a permanent exit from Stamford Bridge, has played with Broja at academy level and has already profited from the young right-back’s penchant for a pull-back cross.
If Broja can pull all that off in the Premier League, Tuchel will be forced to listen. He wants exactly that from his striker, and while Lukaku is more likely to offer that now, Broja could be the answer to the puzzle further down the line.
Having penned a new five-year contract at the Bridge, it’s clear that there is a mutual belief that Broja can offer something significant in a year or two, and here is his chance to prove that.