U19 Euros proves why Chelsea must tie Harvey Vale down to new deal
Five years after Mason Mount featured in England's U19 European Championship-winning side, Harvey Vale repeated the trick.
Vale, 18, wore the captain's armband in Slovakia and flawlessly led the Young Lions through the competition and eventually to a 3-1 victory over Israel in the final to seal the trophy, as well as their place at the U20 World Cup next year.
Goals from Callum Doyle, Carney Chukwuemeka and Aaron Ramsey saw England overturn a 1-0 deficit to Israel in the final and ensure victory in the competition for just the second time ever.
Mount, now a Chelsea regular, featured in the final in 2017, while Reece James, then 17, was an unused substitute. Dujon Sterling, also of Chelsea, was England's starting right-back that day.
While Chelsea's academy has seen a plethora of talent develop over recent years, Vale was the only Cobham player to be selected in the starting XI in the final, with goalkeeper Teddy Sharman-Lowe and Bashir Humphreys the only other Blues academy stars in the squad altogether.
However, unlike Sharman-Lowe and Humphreys, Vale was an integral member of the side and was handed the captain's armband ahead of the tournament, taking that honour from fellow Cobham graduate Levi Colwill.
At the tournament, Vale proved just why Chelsea's academy staff rate him so highly, with his leadership and ability on the ball standing out. The 18-year-old has shown his immense versatility over the past few years at Chelsea, playing left-wing-back, left-wing, right-wing and in midfield in almost equal measure, and he was required to play the former in Slovakia to facilitate the attacking talent at Ian Foster's disposal.
Vale, naturally a more advanced player, excelled at left-wing-back, with his technical ability matching up with his incredible engine. Perhaps the thing that stood out most was simply his stamina. Typically a player with poise and finesse, as shown by his time in Chelsea's U23 side, Vale displayed the physical attributes needed at the top level with his tireless energy up and down the flank.
In fact, his first-team exposure was evident at the tournament. Just as with the aforementioned Chukwuemeka, Dane Scarlett and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Vale has trained regularly with senior pros and has several first-team appearances to his name.
That quartet were arguably England's best players at the tournament, and while Vale didn't grab the same headlines as Chukwuemeka, who showed why Borussia Dortmund are interested, he was just as effective.
In a slightly unfamiliar left-wing-back role, Vale slotted in excellently and a watching Thomas Tuchel may have been alerted by the Englishman's effectiveness in that position. With Marcos Alonso set to leave the club, and Emerson Palmieri's future also unknown, there could be space for either Vale or Ian Maatsen to play second-fiddle to Ben Chilwell.
Furthermore, Vale showed why he's typically a winger with his pinpoint accurate assist for Chukwuemeka's goal in the final, which put England ahead. Cutting in off the right flank, after being shifted there for extra-time, Vale clipped a delicious ball right into the path of the Aston Villa man, who didn't even need to break stride to score.
It was very Hakim Ziyech-esque, and showed the final third quality that is perhaps hidden when Vale plays as a left-wing-back.
Vale is ready for more senior exposure
Having made his first-team debut in the Carabao Cup against Brentford last season, a game in which he displayed several bright moments, Vale went on to feature a further four times for the senior side before the end of the season, impressing off the bench against Luton in the FA Cup.
Alongside Charlie Webster and Lewis Hall, Vale was the clear standout in Chelsea's youth sides last season, hence why he won the club's 'Academy Player of the Season' award, and he deserves more first-team opportunities.
He's ready to contribute, and a back-up role to Chilwell, as well as minutes further forward in cup competitions, could be where he fits in.
The big problem, however, is that his current deal is set to expire next summer. Chelsea have a gem on their hands, and they can't lose him. Perhaps not the most obvious talent in England's U19 squad given the presence of Chukwuemeka and Bynoe-Gittens, but Vale is one of the classiest operators around and it won't be long before he starts receiving offers from elsewhere.
After seeing the likes of Valentino Livramento and Marc Guehi leave last summer, Chelsea's can't afford to let that happen again, so showing faith in Vale and presenting an extended contract would be very smart business.