With injuries to the likes of Timo Werner, Mateo Kovacic, Romelu Lukaku in recent weeks, Chelsea have included midfielder Harvey Vale (who turned 18 in September) in the senior squad for games against Southampton and Malmö in the Carabao Cup and Champions League, respectively.
Vale is considered a highly-rated talent by coaches at Cobham, and, according to The Athletic, the club are keen to extend his current contract, which expires in 2023.
Chelsea will be mindful of Tino Livramento’s departure, voted 2021 Academy Player of the Year, in the summer, who joined Southampton for a fee of £5 million, although the club retain a buyback option in the region of £25-40million. Chelsea also saw academy graduates Lewis Bate, Marc Guehi, Dynel Simeu and Myles Peart-Harris leave the club in the summer to join other Premier League sides, and are keen to keep hold of the next generation of talents emerging from Cobham.
Vale made the switch to Chelsea from Fulham as an under-13 year old, and made his first appearances for the club’s under-18 side in the 2019/20 campaign, aged 16. With Frank Lampard at the helm, a culture of youth progression and cultivation was actively promoted, with Vale playing seven games across the U18 Premier League and FA Youth Cup, alongside the likes of Levi Colwill (now at Huddersfield on loan), the aforementioned Livramento, Tino Anjorin (loaned to Lokomotiv Moscow) and Armando Broja (loaned to Southampton).
The 19/20 U18 league was cancelled early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Blues losing to Man City in the final of the FA Youth Cup 3-2, Vale appearing off the bench for the final 15 minutes. The following season, his involvement with the youth teams grew to 28 in a variety of competitions after signing a new deal in September 2020 - playing 12 times for the U18 side, which he captained, and another 12 for Chelsea’s U23 side. Vale also picked up his first senior minutes in a preseason friendly last August - the 1-1 draw with Brighton.
Vale scored seven and assisted 11 in total, averaging a goal contribution every 119 minutes - this included a run of four goals and three assists in three games against Reading, Norwich and Leicester between October and November. The youngster picked up minutes in a variety of different roles - ranging from central midfield, the ‘number 10’ role, and out on the left, where he can utilise his superb left-foot ability.
Vale linked up well with the likes of Bryan Fiabema and Jude Soonsup-Bell in attack, as Chelsea’s U18 and U23 sides finished 4th and 2nd in their respective leagues - losing out to Man City in the latter.
Vale’s performance on the final day of the season against Blackburn Rovers truly caught the eye - he scored the final goal to secure the 2-4 win in the 75th minute, as well as providing a hat-trick of assists for his teammates. Vale is a versatile and flexible talent - a trait embedded into Cobham youngsters, and could be comfortable in a range of tactical setups, from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3/3-5-2.
Moving into this season, Vale has been a stalwart for the U23 side, scoring four and assisting one in nine games so far, earning a nomination for August’s Premier League 2 Player of the Month, in which the U23s compete. Vale also scored and provided an assist in Septembers 3-1 win over Zenit in the UEFA Youth League, as well as providing another assist against Malmö’s youth team last month.
Vale, who has cited Cristiano Ronaldo as his footballing influence, is a constantly proactive player, with an eye for a finish as well as the ability to set up teammates in attacking areas. His versatility is also a huge strength to possess in the modern game - so far this season he has played in primarily central roles for the U23 side, whilst featuring on the left wing in the UEFA Youth League, as well as for England’s U19 team, which he also captains.
In fact, ex-Blue Olivier Giroud was once shocked by the youngster’s maturity after watching him in training last season, and realising he was too young to drive, before offering him a lift home. With the likes of Mason Mount, Billy Gilmour and Conor Gallagher competing for midfield spots, the club are very well-stocked in that area - and are keen to keep hold of Vale and secure his long-term future, after the regrets of Livramento and others in recent years.
With the games coming thick and fast, Vale’s competitive debut for the first-team may come sooner rather than later.