By Alex Stevens
BBC pundit Pat Nevin has predicted that Billy Gilmour will be back at Rangers by 2019 if he signs for Chelsea.
But former Scotland and Chelsea winger Nevin has delivered an impassioned defence of the Premier League leaders’ academy system and how it provides a production line of outstanding talent.
Rangers have reportedly been making last-ditch attempts this week to convince young playmaker Gilmour, 15, to remain at Ibrox amid reports that he is on the verge of signing for Chelsea.
New manager Pedro Caixinha has admitted he has personally held talks with the teenager to convince him that he would be better off learning his trade at Rangers, while Scottish Football Association performance director Mackay has also warned Gilmour of the perils of getting lost in a big-club academy.
Nevin, who works for the official Chelsea TV station, has an alternative view that moving to the Premier League giants, even just for a few years, can make youngsters better players.
“There is a lot of dislike for the Chelsea academy system,” Nevin told the Mail. “But there are so many coming through. There are dozens of these kids playing in the Premier League, the Championship and other major competitions.
“So it’s obviously a good place to develop as a footballer. As long as you don’ t become fixated on the first team and judge your time there entirely on whether you get picked for a team full of world-class players.
“You’ve got Izzy Brown out at Huddersfield, doing really well. Tammy Abraham is having a spectacular time down at Bristol City. Andreas Christensen is playing for Borussia Moenchengladbach — and he has every chance.
“Nathan Ake has been brilliant at Bournemouth. But is he good enough to take a place from Gary Cahill, the England captain, or David Luiz, the Brazil captain? Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been impressing everybody — but he might end up elsewhere.”
Nevin insists that the Chelsea academy has a clear pathway for all their young players and do not just allow them to rot in the reserves.
Nevertheless, he does not rule out the possibility of a romantic return for Gilmour to Rangers as part of his development while at Stamford Bridge.
“I wouldn’t rule out seeing Billy playing for the Rangers first team at age 17,” Nevin added to the Mail. “And I would love to see that happen.
‘Two or three years from now, Chelsea will tell him he’s going out on loan somewhere — and ask him where he thinks would be best. I would not be surprised if he just said: ‘Rangers’.”
In addition to Chelsea, other premier European clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal and Barcelona, are keeping close tabs Gilmour, who is rated as one of the outstanding talents produced by Scottish football in the last 20 years.
In other Rangers transfer news, Caixinha has lined up his first four signings, with deals done for three of them.