Chelsea have confirmed the signing of former Barcelona man Xavier Mbuyamba.
The 18-year-old has joined the Blues on a three-year deal, with the club confirming the news on the official website.
“Chelsea Football Club can also confirm the signing of Xavier Mbuyamba from Barcelona. The 18-year-old signed a professional contract at Cobham earlier this week and will join our development squad ahead of preparations for the new campaign,” they wrote.
The Blues have previously been interested in the defender, with a move held up last summer because of the transfer ban imposed on the club
So, with the deal now over the line, what do we know about the man dubbed the next Virgil van Dijk?
Who is he?
Born in Maastricht, Mbuyamba began on the books of local club MVV.
He played 11 games for the Dutch club in last season’s Eerste Divisie, helping the team to a 12th place finish in the second tier.
Mbuyama’s team-mates in the Netherlands included former Manchester United man Marnick Vermijl, who was a regular during a loan spell from Preston last year, and Joshua Holtby, brother of former Tottenham midfielder Lewis.
The defender’s impressive form and quality saw him courted by Barcelona, who signed him in August after the transfer ban stood in Chelsea’s way. The Blues brought him over before that move, and he trained with the under-18 and under-23 sides
“The higher the level, the better I got. I would have actually gone to Chelsea, because they were the first to come,” he said .
“But because of a transfer ban they could not offer a contract. Then the choice finally fell on Barcelona.”
At international level, meanwhile, he has featured for the Dutch Under-19 squad, the level at which Liverpool defender Sepp van den Berg also plays.
Impressing at youth level
Mbuyamba has been forced to wait for a first-team chance in Catalunya, remaining in the Juvenil (youth) squad this season.
Previous FC Barcelona Juvenil graduates include current senior players Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig, as well as Premier League players past and present such as Adama Traore and Bojan Krkic.
Barcelona have won their division in the 2019/20 Division de Honor Juvenil de Futbol, pipping Real Zaragoza and Espanyol, while Mbuyama has also featured in the 2019/20 UEFA Youth League.
Mbuyamba has already been compared to fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk. (Photo by Pim Waslander/Soccrates/Getty Images)
He got a 90-minute runout in a 4-0 win over Sparta Prague, as well as playing in defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, as Barca finished bottom of their group.
Van Dijk comparisons
Watching him in action, it’s easy to see why the Van Dijk comparisons have been made.
Mbuyamba is comfortable and elegant on the ball, whether playing at right-back or in the middle for MVV, displaying a calmness shown regularly by his compatriot at Liverpool.
His reading of the game and one-on-one hassling make him a tricky opponent for wingers or forwards, while his long legs and recovery pace allow him to cover in situations where his team-mates are left wanting.
He is naturally also a force in the air, towering over most players in his age group and not looking overawed when playing as a teenager against adults.
Most tellingly, though, he’s the kind of defender who will win the ball and not panic, preferring instead to calmly bring the ball forward and assess his options rather than just booting it forward.