With Branislav Ivanovic set to miss the start of the Premier League season with a dislocated shoulder, Chelsea have been searching for an alternative right back.
And rather than rush into the transfer market, Antonio Conte appears to have found a ready-made replacement in academy graduate Ola Aina.
The 19-year-old has featured in all four of Chelsea’s pre-season friendlies, including the matches with Liverpool and Real Madrid on their American tour, and has performed impressively.
But who is the teenage talent and can we expect to see more of him when the season gets under way?
Born in Southwark, south London, Temitayo Olufisayo Olaoluwa Aina joined Chelsea at the age of 11 and has worked his way up through the youth ranks.
When he first entered the academy, Aina played as a right winger but was converted into the dynamic right back we see today. He is, however, more than comfortable of playing across the back line when required.
In 2012, Aina made his breakthrough in the Under-18 squad and, having impressed greatly, went on to feature in the FA Youth Cup final as Chelsea were beaten over two legs by Norwich.
But success in that competition would come 12 months later, as Chelsea defeated their neighbours Fulham 7-6 on aggregate over two thrilling legs.
Well ahead of schedule, Aina also made his mark in the Chelsea U21 side, who won their version of the Premier League by defeating Manchester United in the Old Trafford final.
That same season saw a first taste of continental football in the UEFA Youth League and Chelsea would go on to establish themselves in the competition with back-to-back titles.
So Aina has amassed quite the medal collection already – in 2014-15, he played in the team that beat Manchester City to retain the Youth Cup two weeks after they had defeated Shakhtar Donetsk to win the Youth League.
And last season saw Aina an ever-present in Chelsea’s run to another Youth League final, where they beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in Nyon, Switzerland.
So it’s fair to say that Aina has already acquired a taste for success in his fledgling career.
Aina’s impressive youth team performances didn’t go unnoticed by Jose Mourinho and the summer of 2015 saw the teenager come along on Chelsea’s post and pre-season tours.
The following season, he trained full-time with the first team and was named on the bench for the Premier League match at Swansea and the League Cup game at Walsall.
Mourinho said of him 12 months ago: ‘I have Ola Aina, an 18-year-old who never played a game in the Premier League, but a boy with lots of potential.’
There was some doubt over whether Aina would commit long-term to the club but he signed a new four-year contract last month.
It appears that Conte is prepared to give youth a chance to flourish and Aina has featured in the matches with Rapid Vienna, RZ Pellets, Liverpool and Real Madrid this summer.
With Ivanovic sidelined, it only strengthens the possibility that Aina will make his Premier League debut against West Ham on August 15.
Aina has certainly staked his claim for a starting place when Chelsea kick- off their Premier League campaign and he has also been publicly praised by Conte.
After the win over RZ Pellets, the Italian said: ‘Aina is showing the academy is a good school and it is very important for the club. It’s a new source.’
With Ivanovic ruled out for the near future, he has an excellent opportunity to show he can make the leap from youth team football to the first team.
Whatever happens, Aina should fully expect to be making his competitive first-team debut this season and can build from there.
This post has already been read 5334 times!