Clinton Mola was regarded as one of the brightest players in Europe in his youth career. But, where is the midfielder now and how has he been performing?
There have been numerous examples of players with the world at their feet before gong backwards. It has been so common throughout football history that it’s often easy to lose track of some of the brightest talents.
However, one player that already finds himself at a cross-roads in his young career with Clinton Mola. The talented 21-year-old began his career at Chelsea, but like many academy prospects at the Blues, he was never given a real opportunity to prove his worth during a five-year stint.
Clinton Mola’s Chelsea Youth Career
Mola signed with Chelsea in the summer of 2015, and he looked to be one of the most talented youth players within the ranks at the Blues.
He quickly began to make waves for the club in the U18 Premier League and FA Youth Cup, playing 18 times across all competitions and scoring once.
This initial success was achieved due to his versatility, as Mola was as capable at left-back and centre-back as he was the holding midfield role.
After a progressive first season with the youth team, Bola continued to impress across 21 games for the Blues in the 2018-19 season. During that season, he played 15 times in the U18 Premier League, scoring once and recorded three assists.
It was during this season that he began to catch the imagination of teams across Europe, as Mola represented the Blues in the UEFA Youth League on three occasions.
By the time that the 2019-20 season got underway, Bola was already among the first names on the team sheet. He continued to impress across a variety of different positions, scoring four times and recording an assist in 23 games across all competitions.
However, regular first-team games and a chance to play in some of England’s best rivalries at the Blues always appeared to be an outside chance, which means he followed a path many other young talents have in recent seasons by moving to the Bundesliga.
Mola's Start in the Bundesliga: The Stuttgart Move
In recent years, the trend of young English players moving to Germany to compete in the Bundesliga has become more common. Jadon Sancho, Jude Bellingham, and Ademola Lookman have been just a few recent examples of English talent that has shone in Germany after being given the chance.
Many expected a new name to be added to that list when Mola moved from Chelsea to German side Stuttgart in the winter of 2020.
The expectations were high when Mola made the move from Chelsea to Stuttgart in the winter of 2020, as many believed he would be the next English player to make a name for himself in Germany.
Mola’s goal was to secure a place in the first team, and he got his chance when he was named in the starting eleven for a DFB Pokal tie against Bayer Leverkusen in February 2020.
His debut was impressive, as he caught the eye of fans and teammates alike with his first start in German football. The young midfielder played a key role in the team during the second half of the season, logging 478 minutes of playing time in eight Bundesliga fixtures.
Stuttgart had a successful season, earning promotion back to the Bundesliga after their relegation the previous year. However, Mola’s opportunities were limited in the following seasons, as he played just 112 minutes in total across both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. In the end, he made only three appearances in the Bundesliga during those two seasons.
This analysis of Mola’s time at Stuttgart highlights the ups and downs of his journey in German football. Although he had a strong start, he struggled to maintain his place in the team in the following seasons. Nevertheless, at just 21 years of age, Mola still has plenty of time to turn his fortunes around and prove himself as a top talent in the Bundesliga.
Fresh Start Back In England
At the start of the 2022-23 season, there were a number of clubs linked with a move for the talented midfielder.
A move back to England always appeared to be the most likely outcome, despite Mola featuring for 14 minutes in an early season game for Stuttgart against RB Leipzig. The move finally materialised in September 2022, as he agreed to sign for Blackburn Rovers on a season-long loan. Rovers also included an option to buy the player at the end of the season.
He wasn’t immediately put into the first team, as Mola played two in the Premier League 2 for his new club. However, his Championship debut did come a short time after. The midfielder would also play twice in the EFL Cup for Rovers, including in the club’s penalty shootout success against West Ham United in the third round.
It hasn’t been exactly the homecoming that Mola would have been hoping for, as minutes have still been hard to come by for
Rovers famously won the top-flight title with Alan Shearer leading the line, but they have been stuck in the second tier since 2012. The midfielder has played a total of 307 minutes across six games for the first team, with four appearances coming in the Championship.
However, he could yet have a key role to play in the second half of the season. Mola’s passing has been a big asset to his game this term, as he boasts a success rate of 79%. Meanwhile, he has completed 124 shot passes and four successful long passes. Mola has won a total of 15 duals, and he has also won 50% of the tackles that he has gone into.
Mola wasn’t only highly regarded by Chelsea throughout his youth career, but also by England. The midfielder represented the Three Lions at every age category throughout his young career, which included making seven appearances and scoring once for the prestigious U18 team. Mola also played a key role in the U19s team, playing on six occasions.
However, it was on his debut for the U20s that he made an immediate impression, as he scored on debut in a 6-1 win over Romania at St. George’s Park.
Across three games with this age group, he was handed a first call-up to the U21 team, where he replaced the injured Levi Colwill in the November 2021 fixtures. He made his debut just a few days later in a 3-2 loss against Georgia, and hasn’t been selected for the U21 national team since.
The fact that Mola came through the England ranks only shows how talented the midfielder is, and if he can resurrect his career and begin playing regular football again, then a recall may not be out of the question. However, a senior call-up remains extremely unlikely at this stage, given the amount of talent that Gareth Southgate has to call upon in the middle of the park.
What’s Next For Mola?
The January window has been a busy period for Mola, as there reports linking the Rovers midfielder with a move to a third club in the 2022-23 campaign. However, it was reported in the Lancashire Telegraph that the midfielder would be remaining at Ewood Park until the end of the season. There had been interest in the 21-year-old from another Championship club, but the unnamed side quickly moved onto other targets due to the complex nature of any deal for the English midfielder.
Mola will now remain at Blackburn until at least the end of the season, where Rovers would then determine whether to make his loan deal a permanent one. At present, it would be hard to see Rovers paying the fee suggested by Stuttgart to keep hold of Mola, but that could change over the coming months. There is certainly a lot of untapped potential there with the midfielder, but whether he can show his worth with limited gametime over the second half of the season remains to be seen.
It will be an essential period for Mola, as he could easily have the choice of picking between two teams in the second tier of their respective divisions next season, with Stuttgart narrowly sitting outside the bottom three in the Bundesliga. However, when it comes to the summer, any decision that Mola takes must revolve around one aspect- playing time.
At just 21, Mola still has a whole career ahead of him, and he needs to be playing regular first-team football in order to reach the peak of his ability. At present, it doesn’t appear he will be given that opportunity at Blackburn, but that could change as he returns to training following an illness that he picked up over the winter period.
He could yet play a key role at helping Blackburn into the Premier League, meaning that he could be a top-flight player next season. That would appear to make his long-term decision slightly easier, especially if Stuttgart are relegated back to 2. Bundesliga over the coming months.
Avoiding Wasted Potential
However, Mola will be keen to ensure that he isn’t another example of a player falling through the cracks in English football. There has certainly been evidence this season already with his performances against West Ham and Nottingham Forest that he could have what it takes to play at the top level. But, sustaining those performance levels will ensure that he becomes a regular fixture in whichever team he moves forward with.