Armando Broja grew up watching YouTube clips of legendary forward Ronaldo – and the Brazilian would have been proud of the finish produced by the Chelsea academy graduate against Wolves for what was his first goal for his boyhood club.
Broja joined Chelsea at just eight years old; an approach from the Blues enough for him to leave Tottenham Hotspur. His rise through the academy ranks wasn’t quite straightforward but in the second year of his scholarship, Broja blossomed into a prolific goalscorer for Chelsea.
A professional contract was signed and a loan to Vitesse followed. The goals continued. In the summer of 2021, the Albania international agreed a new five-year deal at Chelsea and spent the following campaign at Premier League side Southampton. It was an important learning experience.
Broja scored nine goals in all competitions for the Saints, the majority of which came during a winter purple patch. Yet he improved other aspects of his game and after Chelsea snubbed strong interest from West Ham United in the summer, the 20- year-old remained at Stamford Bridge, was incorporated into the first-team squad, and signed a new six-year contract.
The striker has not started a game thus far but has produced several fine cameo appearances off the bench. And it was the latest – in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Wolves yesterday – that was rounded off with Broja scoring his first Chelsea goal.
“Today is my dad’s birthday – it was a really good gift for him,” Broja said with a smile after the victory. “The players were really nice to me in the changing room and said nice things. It was an amazing moment for me and my family. My parents are probably buzzing somewhere around the stadium.
“It was difficult for my parents mostly, they always tried to give me a better life, an easier life for me and for me and my two sisters. Thanks to them so much for helping me throughout my journey. They come to every game as much as they can – I don’t think they have missed a game. I was happy I could score today for them.”
The influence of Ronaldo, the outlandishly talented Brazil international who played for Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan during a glittering career, came from Broja’s father Xhevahir. It was him who showed his son videos of the forward dancing beyond challenges and scoring breathtaking strikes.
“He was my dad’s favourite player, is still my dad’s favourite player,” Broja explained. “He loved him, watched him all the time, and always wanted me to play like R9. He always showed me clips on YouTube and we would sit and watch his games. He loved him and that’s where I got my love for him. I watch a lot of his game and try to get little tricks and stuff he did. My dad played a big role in getting me here.”
Broja’s goal against Wolves was certainly one Ronaldo would’ve appreciated. The Chelsea star cut inside onto his right foot before arrowing a shot into the far corner from 20 yards.
“I think it was [a Ronaldo-esque finish],” Broja explained. “It was a great ball from Kova which allowed me space in behind then I could cut in on my right side and finish in the bottom corner. I’ve been practicing my finishing a lot in training with all the other strikers. I see them in training every day and get a little stuff off them.”
Broja will be hopeful of earning that elusive first Chelsea start in the coming weeks. That will not be easy given he is competing with Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang, who has netted two goals in his previous two appearances, and German international Kai Havertz , who also found the net against Wolves.
But the homegrown forward has no concerns about his game time. He is ready to make his mark whenever called upon by new head coach Graham Potter .
“He’s a really good person, easy to talk to. He comes up and says, ‘Whenever you need help or something, just come up to me and speak to me.’ It was a good conversation.
“He said to me, ‘Just keep working hard, keep your head down, opportunities will come when you work hard. When you come on the pitch for little cameos, just give it your all. And more opportunities will come.’ He’s a great manager. It’s good to be working with him and the rest of the players.”
Broja continued: “As a young player, you know you thrive in situations like this. You want to be in a position like this at a massive club like Chelsea surrounded by amazing players, so you want to learn off them in such a good environment.
“For me, it’s more a learning experience to learn a thing or two from the other strikers. I think it was good they did come in and it give competition. At such an amazing club, and you need that. To be at a top level, you can’t have it easy all the time. Aubameyang coming in has been amazing. I learn a lot from him in training and in games. It is good competition.”