Chelsea youngsters backed to step up amid transfer ban as Aina 'prays' Blues cope without Hazard

The former Blues full-back believes the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham are capable of making an impact in the first-team at Stamford Bridge

Ola Aina has backed Chelsea’s young players to make an impact as they attempt to cope with a two-window transfer ban, though he accepts that replacing Eden Hazard is an incredibly difficult task.

The former Blues full-back has left the club on a permanent deal to join Torino, who exercised an option to sign him at £8.7 million (€10m) having had him on loan for the 2018-19 season.

After 12 years at Stamford Bridge, Aina made just six appearances but was successful with the club’s youth sides, winning both the UEFA Youth League and FA Youth Cup on two occasions.

Aina may be left to think what might have been, however, with the two-window transfer ban coming into force likely to see them turn to their young players more than they have had to previously.

He has, however, backed the likes of Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham to make an impact, insisting that they are now ready for the first team at Stamford Bridge.

“With the ban coming in I think Chelsea should give the youngsters a chance,” he told Goal ahead of Nigeria’s AFCON warm-up meeting with Senegal. “I say should, because with the season gone I think that a lot of loan players have proven themselves. On merit, I think it should happen.

“I think the young ones can come in and show what they are about. I think it would be good for them because I don’t think there would be as much pressure on with the ban. Chelsea have to make do with what they have which is a talented bunch of guys out on loan and in the academy.

“I think a lot of the guys are ready. Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham and even young Reece James. He has only had one season on loan but if you throw people like that into the deep end then they will come out for you.

“We already know Callum Hudson-Odoi can handle the pressure of playing for Chelsea.”

Aina discussed Hazard’s departure to Real Madrid and insisted that it is unrealistic to expect one player from the current Chelsea squad to be capable of replicating his impact.

“Eden will definitely be missed,” Aina added. “I don’t think fans should think that just one of the academy guys or loan guys can replace Hazard. That’s too much pressure and replacing Eden will be very difficult. It should be a relaxed situation for everyone where the young ones do their best, which I think they will do.

“He has been a great player for Chelsea over the past seven years. He is also a great character, a great person. I have enjoyed my time with him in the changing rooms. It has been a pleasure to play with him.

“A pleasure to watch him in training and in matches. There is a time when people have to move on and he has chosen to move on. No one will hold that against him because he did everything for us. He tried his best for us. I am sure everyone wishes him the best.

“I just pray that Chelsea can manage without him. I don’t have a favourite moment but I have collective moments of him being who he is in life. He likes to joke and banter. He was always happy. I never once saw Eden angry and he is a good character.

“With Eden, as a defender all you can do is hope for the best. You have to hope he makes a mistake. If he doesn’t you just say ‘good luck’ to any defender really.”

As Hazard departs, two Chelsea stars who showed in 2018-19 that they can add goals and flair have unfortunately suffered serious injuries.

Both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are out for the long-term and Aina insists that the latter is no longer a young talent and should be considered a first-team player in his own right.

“I don’t count Loftus-Cheek as an emerging talent [anymore], I think he is already established even though he is young and from the academy,” he continued. “He’s been at Chelsea for four years, so he is an established first-team player.

“He has proven himself already and it is exciting to see. Ruben has been ready to play at this level for a long time, so seeing him this season, before his injury, getting the recognition and playing time that he deserves was really good.

“He has proven himself once again that he has been ready and he is ready. If he signs a new deal then that’s great for him and Chelsea and he will do fantastic. It is up to him, though. Whatever happens, happens.”

For Aina, his chapter in west London has ended and he spoke about the thought process of deciding his future as he prepares for the African Cup of Nations next week.

“Things are a lot clearer,” he said. “I had not been thinking about moving. I just think about what’s ahead of me and that’s the national team. We can achieve something great. I just had to do what’s best for me and my family. Hopefully it is the right decision.”

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