More than just a big time Charly

By | April 13, 2015

Charly Musonda Jr after a Belgium U17 game in 2012 (John Chapman copyright)

Charly Musonda Jr after a Belgium U17 game in 2012 (John Chapman copyright)

With Charly Musonda Jr. wearing the number 10 shirt for Chelsea as they won the 2015 UEFA Youth League by beating Shakhtar Donetsk, it’s time for a look back at where he came from and some thoughts about where he’s going.

I’ve seen Musonda play – live – on two occasions. The first time was with the Belgium U17 team in 2012 and the second time was last year with the Belgium U21 side. As you can see from the images here, he’s done some growing but he’s still on the slight side if he wants to make it in the Premier League or elsewhere.

Musonda was born in Brussels in 1996. His father is Charly Musonda Sr. who played over 100 matches for Anderlecht in the 80s and 90s. Musonda Sr. was a Zambian international whose career was hampered by injuries. In 1993, he was selected to play for Zambia in Senegal but didn’t travel as he was under treatment. Musonda was extremely fortunate as the plane carrying the team crashed. There were no survivors.

Charly Musonda Jr. has two football-playing brothers, Lamisha (22) and Tika (20). Charly Jr. was rated as Anderlecht’s finest prospect in the youth ranks, but such is the power of the Premier League, he was signed by Chelsea at the age of 15 before he signed professionally with Anderlecht. Chelsea were so keen to get Charly that they also signed his two brothers – a kind of family package deal.

As expected, Lamisha and Tika have faded from the scene. Even Charly’s progress has not been as spectacular as expected; he’s 18 and seems far from getting a first team debut. Others have taken different routes. Youri Tielemans, aged 17, has played over 50 games in the Anderlecht first team. Dennis Praet is approaching 100 games for Anderlecht, aged 20, and looks likely to move in the summer – possibly to Atletico Madrid.

When I saw Musonda Jr. play for Belgium U17s against the Netherlands, he looked about 14 and was brilliant for 45 minutes. When I saw him a few months ago for the U21s against Norway, he was the outstanding player on the field, creating and scoring goals.

Musonda after playing for Belgium U21s in 2014 (copyright John Chapman)

Musonda after playing for Belgium U21s in 2014 (copyright John Chapman)

Musonda is full of tricks and the Dutch defenders could not get close to him before he tired. The same was true of the Norwegian youngsters as he’s clever, reads the game well and can pass a ball, long and short.

Sint Truiden coach Yannick Ferrera was in charge of the Anderlecht youth team some years ago and his charges included Romelu Lukaku, Adnan Januzaj and Charly Musonda Jr. He rates the last-named as the most talented player he’s ever coached.

He’s obviously rated at Chelsea too and if there’s a player he’s similar to in style, it’s Eden Hazard. That can only be good for Belgium; if Musonda can put on some muscle, he could be ready for the next World Cup in Moscow. But that depends on him getting first team football. With Chelsea’s record of bringing through young players – it’s not good – it could be argued that he should have got himself established at Anderlecht before moving on.

Another player he could be likened to is Enzo Scifo. Times were different back in the 1980s but he struggled in Italy with Inter and in France with Bordeaux after leaving Anderlecht aged 21. It’s always a tough call for the really talented youngsters to know when they should move to a bigger club. Nowadays money talks. Musonda Jr. will probably earn a decent living somewhere but whether he will have the career that his talent deserves has yet to be seen.

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