THERE will be many at Villa Park smarting about Carney Chukwuemeka's £20million move to Chelsea.
The talented 18-year-old was the talisman for Aston Villa's U18 side in 2021 – starring in their FA Youth Cup campaign as they lifted the trophy by defeating Liverpool in the final.
However, with chances hard to come by under Steven Gerrard – the playmaker wanted assurances about his future.
Chukwuemeka refused to sign a new deal to commit beyond 2023, and felt his career could progress elsewhere.
That's why he has chosen the Blues. And he's ready for the challenge ahead.
"It’s been quite hectic but I couldn’t get Chelsea out of my head the last few days so I’m just happy and relieved that it’s all done", he told Chelsea's website.
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"I’m so excited and just can’t wait to get on the pitch, meet all the players and try to win games and trophies with Chelsea."
He was a wanted man
Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund were watching developments closely as they contemplated swooping for the coveted talent.
While Barcelona were believed to have offered Chukwuemeka a deal to move to the Camp Nou.
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AC Milan had also previously offered £3million for the his services, before Chelsea blew them out the water with their bid.
Reports suggested Chukwuemeka was looking for a deal worth £100,000-per-week.
He has now agreed a six-year contract at Stamford Bridge, where he could flourish under German boss Thomas Tuchel.
He's come a long way since Northampton Town.
Chukwuemeka was plucked from the Cobblers' academy in 2016.
He worked his way up through the ranks and was heralded as a future star for the Villa first team from a young age by insiders at the club.
But it was in April last year when many in the football world were alerted to his remarkable ability.
The playmaker was incredible in the 6-1 demolition of Newcastle United in the FA Youth Cup semi-final, scoring a hat-trick to fire his side into the final.
Villa would go on to defeat Liverpool in the showpiece 2-1, with Chukwuemeka pulling the strings.
Not only did he finish as the competition's leading scorer with seven goals.
A week prior, he made his senior debut for the first team, hitting the post moments after coming on as a sub against Tottenham Hotspur.
His remarkable rise saw the youngster named as the club's Young Player of the Year.
However, the was trouble brewing behind the scenes.
As is the norm, wonderkids with an abundance of skill have an expectation to play minutes in the first team.
Chukwuemeka has had minutes, but not as many as he would have liked.
He made his first start in the second game of the season as Villa could only manage a draw at home to promoted Brentford.
But his performance was the standout in an otherwise disappointing result.
Pundit Paul Merson hailed him as "outstanding" saying "he will be an absolute star".
But Chukwuemeka only appeared 12 times in the Premier League – with two of those being starts.
A contract stand off seemed to have got in the way of his development.
Back in January, Villa boss Steven Gerrard revealed talks over a new deal for Chukwuemeka were being had.
"We want him to sign and to extend and reward him for what we've seen so far," Gerrard revealed in a press conference.
"We've got big aspirations and a big road map for Carney but, in terms of answering your question, there's only one person who can answer and that's Carney."
However, the Liverpool legend seemingly conceded defeat in losing the youngster by revealing he was in the dark with how those discussions were progressing.
"No, no. As far as I know they haven't progressed," he told reporters.
"We've done everything we can from our side to try and make them progress. I'm not sure where that's up to at the moment."
Chukwuemeka's next task will be to break into Chelsea's already heavily-stocked midfield.
Rest assured, though, he has the ability to make it in West London.
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