After signing a new long-term contract with Chelsea, young striker Armando Broja sat down with the Chelsea website during the pre-season trip to Dublin to explain why it means so much to him to have committed his future to the club and be able to learn from the more experienced members of the first-team squad.
The Academy graduate spent the 2020/21 campaign on loan in the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem, getting his first taste of senior football, and was rewarded for his performances there when he signed a new contract with Chelsea on Sunday, which commits his future to the club until at least the summer of 2026.
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Having been a Chelsea fan growing up and played with the Blues since a very young age, the 19-year-old is delighted with the chance to continue his journey at the club, as well as getting his contract extension out of the way early in the summer so he can focus fully on preparing for next season.
‘I’ve been at Chelsea since I was a very young boy, it’s my dream club, I support Chelsea,’ explained Broja. ‘I’ve been through the whole system with the Academy and so I understand the club really well.
‘I’ve always had a very close bond with Chelsea, since I was a little kid. I supported Chelsea and used to go to all the games, so it’s nice to sign a long-term contract with the club I love and I’m looking forward to the years ahead with Chelsea.
‘It’s nice to get that side of football out of the way so I can just concentrate on myself and my team-mates and what’s in front of us. So I’m happy that I managed to do it early and now I can just focus on my football without any stress.’
It seemed to be the perfect time to get the contract signed and out of the way to focus on football matters as, with a season of senior football under his belt, Broja has joined Thomas Tuchel’s pre-season squad for this summer.
As well as this week’s trip to Ireland for a training camp, that included 45 minutes of action for the young forward in our first pre-season friendly, against Peterborough United at Cobham the day before his new contract was signed.
The opportunity the play alongside and learn from his more experienced Chelsea team-mates is one Armando is keen to make the most of and he certainly seemed to do that against Peterborough, as he set up Hakim Ziyech before finding the net himself in a 6-1 victory over our Championship opposition.
Understandably the Albanian international, who made his first senior start for the country against England at Wembley in March, couldn’t have been more pleased with his start to the summer and a timely confidence boost.
‘I was very happy to get my first goal in pre-season, it was a nice way to start. As a young striker you need to have confidence. It’s not nice when you miss chances, you feel down about yourself and it’s not a good place to be in, so it’s nice to manage to get on the scoresheet and help out the team as much as possible, which is the most important thing.
‘The game against Peterborough was very nice. I was lucky enough to get 45 minutes playing, and I got an assist and a goal. It was good to be involved because you can definitely see a big difference in quality from the Academy to the first team.’
It isn’t just that match which has him appreciating the chance to be involved in Tuchel’s squad for pre-season, though, as the chance to work with and learn from his more experienced colleagues - including several of last season’s Champions League winners - every day is an opportunity very much appreciated by the second-youngest member of the group travelling to Dublin.
‘It’s crazy. When I was younger I never actually thought I’d be in a position like this so I’m thankful every day to my family, to everyone who's supported me, for the position I’m in. It’s a nice place to be, you learn from some of the best players in the world.
‘You’re around first-team players who are playing regularly in the Champions League, who won the Champions League, so it’s good to learn from them and they’ll help you out as well, because they’re all lovely people and know you’re younger and trying to develop. It’s like a big family here, so it’s really nice to just talk to the boys and train every day, it’s been a really positive couple of weeks.’
Broja has particularly enjoyed the chance to learn from the more experienced strikers at Chelsea, both during this pre-season and on previous occasions when he has trained with the senior squad.
While there have been plenty of strikers to provide advice in that time, Tammy Abraham has become an especially useful source here in Ireland. There are similarities between the two as a couple of tall but agile strikers with a habit of spotting space to exploit and putting defenders under pressure in possession, although just as important is the fact Abraham has already trodden the same path to the Chelsea first-team squad his younger team-mate is currently embarking on.
Just like Broja, Abraham came through the ranks in our Academy before going on loan to gain experience and prove himself as a goalscorer in the senior game, meaning he knows exactly what the Albanian international is experiencing at this stage in his young career.
‘Before we had Olivier Giroud, who’s obviously left now. He’s a top, top striker but there’s a difference because Tammy went through the Academy so he understands what I’m going through as well, because he’s already done everything that I’m doing.
‘He gives me advice all the time and tells me what’s good, what’s bad, how I can learn, how I can do better. Tammy’s a really good guy, a nice role model. He tries to help me out as much as possible and I try to learn from him and the other players, because there are Champions League winners in the squad, everyone here is a top player. It’s just nice to be around people you can learn from.’
The other side of training daily with people who have proven themselves at the very top of the game is the confidence it can give to young players like Broja, with the knowledge that if they can hold their own against them they can do it against anyone.
‘That just gives you a big confidence boost as well,’ Armando added. ‘If you know you’re doing well in training and in games, you know you can do it against other teams too, which is a nice feeling to have. Training’s been positive, the game we’ve played so far was positive, everyone’s got high spirits, so it’s really nice to be here and to keep learning with these players.’