Liverpool are signing one of the best young talents in the country - leaving Chelsea devastated

Chelsea academy attacker Rio Ngumoha
-Credit: (Image: Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

In a world where a 16-year-old at the end of his first senior season in men's football can score a stunning goal in a European Championship final, anything is possible. Lamine Yamal's goal against France, and his performances all tournament at Euro 2024, say a lot.

There are not many Yamals out there, but clubs are always on the search for the next big thing. They want to find and nurture a Kylian Mbappe before the transfer fee gets too big. In Rio Ngumoha, Liverpool are attempting to do just this.

The teenage sensation from Chelsea's academy is 15. He hasn't been at the centre of bidding wars like Endrick or Vitor Roque from Brazil, who both went for over £40million around their 16th birthday, but he has had a pursuit. It's almost unfair to compare him to these guys, but the point still stands.

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Having had success with bringing through young players at Anfield in the past few years - from Trent Alexander-Arnold in the academy to signings from elsewhere like Bobby Clark or Ben Doak - Ngumoha will be the next to join. Having declined Chelsea's offer of a scholarship, he will now move to Merseyside and continue his development there.

Ngumoha is rated as one of the best young players in England for his age group. He has not yet been anywhere near first-team football like he may have been in other countries where fast-tracking into senior football is a source of money and a business model, but he is still well-liked.

It says plenty that Ngumoha was being tracked by Manchester City and Bayern Munich, among others as well. Given Chelsea's expansive youth recruitment drive, though, which has seen hundreds of millions already committed to buying teenagers, Ngumoha ultimately decided that the chances of making a breakthrough in the coming years is more likely away from the club.

But just who is Ngumoha, why were Liverpool so keen to get the player, and why are Chelsea so angry that he has chosen to leave Cobham? The Liverpool ECHO spoke to Chelsea academy expert Parth Gupta, who closely tracks and writes about young talent at the club.

"Ngumoha has been a winger who has been talked about for quite a while in the academy world and it doesn’t take too long of watching him to see why," Gupta explains. "He’s a specialist-in-dribbling winger, predominantly on the left-hand side, who is fully confident in his one-on-one ability and is fearless in that sense.

"He’s played majorly Under-16 football so far, with a few appearances for the Under-18s, so it’s not like many would’ve been able to watch him a huge amount, but the glimpses everyone has seen through broadcasts and clips are definitely exciting."

Not many at such an age group get the attention or coverage that has come to Ngumoha in recent months after it emerged that Chelsea had a serious fight on their hands to retain the young gem. But it becomes apparent quickly as to what he can offer and why there was such a fight to secure him at this stage of his young career.

"Two moments definitely come to mind," said Gupta. "The first one being a 15-minute sub-cameo against Southampton in the Under-18s Premier League where he picked up a goal and an assist to turn around a 2-1 loss into a 3-2 win; and the second one being the incredible individual goal he scored against Wolves in the U17 Premier League Cup final where he ran through the whole team and scored from the edge of the box in the bottom corner. Chelsea went on to lift the trophy."

There is an undoubted step up to senior football, though, and even players slightly older than Ngumoha, who have made their debuts early, have had to take time. Ethan Nwaneri has hardly had a look in at Arsenal but given his age, is still ahead of most.

Ngumoha is no different, and Gupta explains just what is still yet to come. "There’s no doubt work to be done, both physically and transforming that confidence he has in dribbling with intent and directness to higher age groups," he says. "But I very much imagine that will come with time, trust and experience.

"It’s hard to talk about a 15-year-old too much, and one’s very aware of the potential consequences of doing so, but if he takes his opportunities, which he no doubt will get at Liverpool due to his talent and the way the club works, I think a lot of people in the country will be keeping an eye on him very, very soon."

Rio Ngumoha in action for Chelsea
Rio Ngumoha in action for Chelsea -Credit:Getty Images

Last season it was Jayden Danns, James McConnell, Lewis Koumas and Jarell Quansah among the young Reds talents to have a glimpse into senior football. Albeit largely made necessary by unprecedented injury problems, Jurgen Klopp's trust in the system built on foundations he built, and the empowerment they felt, was part of the reason these players thrived. For instance, Conor Bradley, who had only been playing League One football months earlier, became a key figure at right-back.

Ngumoha is still a way behind their development arc, but Liverpool will firmly believe that if they harness his talent in the correct way, all the attention and effort put towards signing him will prove worthwhile, and then some.