How things could have been different for the 1999 Chelsea Young Player of the Year

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Sam Dalla Bona saw his career nosedive after leaving Stamford Bridge in 2002.

The list of names on the Chelsea FC Young Player of the Year list is certainly an intriguing one. There are those who have gone on to establish themselves solid careers elsewhere such as Jody Morris, Neil Shipperley or Andy Myers. Then there are those who have established themselves as Premier League competitors such as Carlton Cole, Lassana Diarra or Robert Huth; then there is the likes of John Terry and John Obi Mikel; who have become staples in the Chelsea first team.

Then there is 1999; wedged between JT and Rhys Evans. Italian midfielder Sam Dalla Bona received the accolade just before the turn of the millennium but out of nothing more than pure intrigue I decided to find out what happened to him in the 14 years that have followed.

So where is Dalla Bona now?

Well first a little background as to the player for those that don’t recall him.

Signed by the Blues from Atalanta in 1998 the creative midfielder was the star of the Italian under-16 side when he arrived in London.

In his first season he scored 16 goals from the middle of the park and won the accolade I mention in the title.

A year later he was making his debut against Feyenoord in the Champions League and played 32 times in the 2001-02 season; running new signing Frank Lampard tight for first-team action for the entire campaign.

At this point everything seemed on the up-and-up for the Chelsea career of Dalla Bona.

Then things went wrong.

He decided he wanted to return to Italy and refused to sign a contract extension with the club; therefore being demoted to the reserves.

He signed for AC Milan in 2002 for £1 million and went on to win the Champions League and Coppa Italia with the club but in the end he never cemented a place in the first team and went on three separate loan spells with Bologna, Lecce and Sampdoria before signing for the revamped Napoli in 2006.

He helped Napoli back into Serie A to the detriment of his career and when fitness worries started to mount up as well he struggled to make an impact on the first-team. Trials at West Ham and Fulham were unsuccessful with loan spells at Iraklis, Verona and his first club Atalanta being equally fruitless.

Last season he was at Mantova in Lega Pro 2; the fourth tier of Italian football where again he struggled to make an impact.

In January he signed a deal with Maltese outfit Mosta where he would team up with fellow Italian Fabio Vignaroli. Or at least that is what Wikipedia informs us.

In reality, although a proposal was put forward by the club, nothing ever came of it as confirmed by the man himself in a March interview:

‘’I do not even know what to do. I have not received any satisfactory proposals and it is not easy to settle after playing for teams like Chelsea, Milan and Napoli.’’

In the same interview he speaks of his regret at ever leaving Chelsea and England and no wonder why.

His career nosedived after that move and Chelsea’s obvious replacement as a goalscoring midfielder has gone on to great things.

His name is Frank Lampard and he has just become the clubs record goal-scorer.

Oh how things could have been different.

What are your memories of Sam Dalla Bona?

image: © Jason Bagley

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