Millions would be fair price for Ampadu as youngster moves up Bridge pecking order


When David Luiz’s future was thrown into doubt at Chelsea following a row with manager Antonio Conte, Exeter City could have been forgiven for viewing the storm as a boost.

The Brazilian’s demotion to the bench for the heavyweight clash against Manchester United not only robbed Chelsea of one of their first-choice defenders, but it hoisted former Grecians star Ethan Ampadu up the pecking order.

The 17-year-old was on the bench for the arrival of Jose Mourinho’s side after Luiz was axed from the squad having questioned Conte’s tactics during the recent Champions League defeat at Roma.

It’s not the first time Conte has turned to Ampadu and every time he has been asked about the City youth product, he has spoken in glowing terms.

With a transfer tribunal looming large on the horizon, Ampadu’s instant impact at the Premier League champions can only work in Exeter’s favour.

Both clubs have failed to reach an agreement over a compensation fee for Ampadu so the wrangle will be decided by the football authorities.

It seems Chelsea are not willing to meet Exeter’s valuation of the player after winning a transfer tug-of-war with a host of Premier League teams to lure him to Stamford Bridge.

But with Ampadu making a splash having made two first-team appearances in the Carabao Cup – against Nottingham Forest and Everton – his stock continues to rise and surely his transfer fee is going up with it.

Reading national newspapers over the past few weeks and you could be forgiven for thinking Chelsea have unearthed a new talent and accelerated his progress towards the big time.

What hasn’t been touched upon is Exeter’s input in his meteoric rise. And that will form the centrepiece of the impending tribunal – to what extent did the Grecians mould a star of the future?

Ampadu has been developed brilliantly by Exeter, playing up the age groups as a fledgling talent and treating him with the utmost respect as he prepared to sit his GCSEs last summer.

Ever since he made his debut at the age of 15 years and ten months against Brentford last summer – becoming the youngest player to have ever featured for Exeter – manager Paul Tisdale used him fleetingly to help him marry the demands of school exams with professional football.

A flurry of starts at the beginning of last season at the heart of the Grecians defence was borne out of an injury crisis and not an attempt to alert higher League teams of his ability.

It must have been tempting to thrust him into first-team action during the play-offs, but that would have had a detrimental impact on his studies.

As it was, the Premier League big guns were already circling and Arsenal and Chelsea battled it out to seal his signature.

The general consensus was that Ampadu was moving to Stamford Bridge as a development player and not one capable of immediately forcing his way into first-team action.

Yet Chelsea were not just buying another youngster to be eventually sent out to feeder club Vitesse Arnhem to give them a taste of competitive action.

The tribunal must realise what a special talent Chelsea have acquired.

Lower League clubs rarely unearth such rich potential and they must be suitably compensated to secure the club’s future.

By ensuring they receive a fair price will continue the conveyor belt of young talent rolling out of clubs operating in the lower reaches of the football pyramid.

We’re talking millions here for Ampadu, not hundreds of thousands of pounds. In a market where transfer fees in excess of £30-million are becoming common place in the top flight, young talent like Ampadu is surely worth a fortune.

Exeter are in a good bargaining position as they have sold on a youngster who continues to court attention. Not only has he excelled at Chelsea, he has also been drafted into Chris Coleman’s Wales squad.

Indeed his week former Liverpool ace Ian Rush singled out Ampadu and fellow young star Ben Woodburn as stars of the future.

He said: “These two lads are going to be world class, it’s only injury that can stop them.

“I’ve seen them training with the Wales squad and they were the best players there.”

Elsewhere, Exeter have been handed a good opportunity to progress to the third round of the Emirates FA Cup after being drawn away at Forest Green Rovers in the second round.

The Grecians have already triumphed at the New Lawn this season after a Reuben Reid double and a rare strike from Pierce Sweeney earned Tisdale’s side a 3-1 victory.

Now they will have to so the same again to put themselves in the third round – and set up a potential tie against one of the top sides in the country.

Exeter face a trip to rock bottom Chesterfield next weekend as they aim to continue their good away form.

The Grecians have won four, drawn three and lost just one of their eight away games this season.

By contrast Chesterfield have struggled on home soil, winning one and losing five of their opening eight home games.

The Spireites sacked Gary Caldwell in September following a disappointing start to the season and replaced him with former striker Jack Lester.

The 41-year-old scored 85 goals in 197 league games for Chesterfield between June 2007 and April 2013.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.