Gabriel Slonina keeps a daily diary before and after training.
Chelsea’s new goalkeeper, who was initially signed for £8.1m ($10m) last summer from MLS side Chicago Fire, has followed the same routine for the past 11 years. Now 18, he has already made notes in his 15 books and continues to use them as points of reference. Since moving to England, he hasn’t given up.
These diaries detail the short-, medium-, and long-term goals Slonina has set for herself, as well as the specific aspects she wants to remember from training and matches, both good and bad.
One of the reasons he writes down his thoughts before a session is so he can focus on what he wants to accomplish that day and help his career stay on the upward curve.
His time at Chelsea has only just begun, but it’s clear that his training is paying off.
Slonina, who looks young and mature, was signed with the future in mind. However, he is ambitious and has a goal of one day becoming number 1 for the club and his USMNT.
After signing in August, the teenager was loaned out to Chicago until the MLS season ended in November, so he had to wait to work with his new teammates. He joined Graham Potter’s squad in 1999, but benefited from an early life experience at the club when he attended an away game at Brentford and a visit to Manchester United in October. .
He got used to his new surroundings quickly. Living in an apartment near the club’s practice grounds in Surrey, south London, he maintains a strict daily regime, preferring it to the far more distracting city center. He goes to bed by 10pm every night and wakes up by 7am at the latest. He truly is one of the first players to enter the Cobham Complex each day, and one of the last to leave.
Slonina’s work ethic has not gone unnoticed, especially by Chelsea’s new American owners. Everyone at the club is used to calling him “Gaga”.This is a nickname given to him by his family when he was young and has nothing to do with the singer. his Twitter handle.
Most of his weeks are spent training with the first team, working alongside Kepa Arrizabalaga, Eduardo Mendy, Marcus Vetinelli and goalkeeping coaches Ben Roberts and Hilario. These elderly politicians welcomed the young man warmly and were always available to answer his questions. Slonina knows she has a lot to learn from them as she strives to reach their level.
The match time so far was Premier League 2’s U-21s. He has appeared in his four matches so far and has shown his potential as he conceded only one goal as Chelsea recorded his three wins and one draw. He has five more games scheduled this season, with Slonina expected to make up the majority.
The fact that the Under-21s are embroiled in a title fight with Manchester City – Chelsea are one point ahead, but City have two games to go and will face the West Londoners at home in mid-April. Compete – means that there is an element of pressure on him to perform. The club will learn a lot from his handling.
Slonina made a name for themselves in last month’s 1-0 home win over Arsenal. Not only did he keep a clean sheet, but he also showed his ability to pass the ball from behind. He was also not shy about shouting orders to his teammates and efficiently commanded his backline.
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Even though I spend most of my time getting to know senior players, there is no sense of ego when I stop by to play with the development team. That night, when Leo Castledin scored the only goal of the match against Arsenal in the 86th minute, Slonina ran the length of the pitch and joined the celebration as if they had been playing together for years. .
U-21 coach Mark Robinson is certainly impressed with what he’s seen so far.
‘He’s got a great attitude,’ says Robinson athletic. “He doesn’t train with us very often, but when he does, he integrates beautifully into the group. It’s not just that he came in, played a game and came back. Saw it at a celebration of – that’s what you want. Someone fully invested in what you’re doing.
“When you block or tackle in front of me, you can see how happy he is as he bonds with the other players. He really made an effort to deepen, he accepts what we’re doing and he asks questions, he’s gone out of his way to look for us and ask extra things, that’s what you’re doing is what you need.
“His performance against Arsenal was his best game for us. The way he ordered everything. We’re asking him to play very high, he’s fully invested, he’s great, fun to be with and you feel part of the group.”
Slonina’s confidence is no surprise. In August 2021 he became the youngest goalkeeper to debut in his MLS at the age of 17 and his 81 days, then in January he became the youngest keeper to play for his team in the United States Seniors, making him a mere At the age of 18 he won his first cap in a friendly match against Serbia. And 255 days.
He hoped to be named to the squad again this month for the CONCACAF Nations League games against Grenada and El Salvador, but was not in Mark Hudson’s 24-man squad. in Indonesia in May and June.
Like compatriot Christian Pulisic, Slonina is aware that his progress will come under further scrutiny in his home country after the spotlight on Chelsea. Meditation helps block out the noise from outside, allowing him to stay focused on his progress.
It was around this time last year that Slonina feared that a dream move to Stamford Bridge would go awry. Most of the work on the transfer had already been done in January with former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech, then the club’s technical and performance advisor and key in the negotiations.
Čech is one of Slonina’s idols, a player he grew up with and learned the game, and that he received calls from himself about how much he was wanted and how well he fit in. was clearly a deciding factor in his decision to leave Chelsea.
However, the deal was put on hold as then-owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned and the club was put up for sale. For a while it looked like Real Madrid would sign him instead, but as soon as the consortium of Todd Bawley and Clearlake bought Chelsea last May, Slonina revealed how much they would revive the transfer. He didn’t think twice — Cech and Hilario ultimately made the difference.
Once the switch was complete, Cech sent a message of congratulations and wished him the best of luck, even though he had left the club at the time.
Clearly, Slonina has no regrets.
“It’s been great so far,” he told the club’s website last month. “All the goalkeepers, the coaching staff and the team are top professionals. They want you to improve, so it’s great to be around that environment. I would like to continue working with the players in this group.
“I think I’ve improved in everything. I see little things I never thought of before and I can work on them and tweak them to make me faster, stronger and more powerful.” .
“It’s been an incredible journey since signing in August and to be honest, coming to Chelsea’s facility and training has yet to feel real. A dream come true.”
Inevitably, fans will wonder what will happen next.
Slonina is currently fourth in Chelsea’s first-team pecking order, but there’s a good chance at least two of the three men ahead of him will leave in the summer — Vetinelli’s contract expires in June. Most likely Mendy. His previous 2 first choice of the season is sold by Potter after being demoted to his second place behind Kepa.
However, Chelsea are looking to sign the goalkeeper, which could have an impact on the young American.
As it stands, a decision on whether he will remain one of the three on the 2023-24 senior team or go on loan will wait until the preseason is well advanced.
Until then, as he notes in his diary, life at Chelsea had been very good so far.
(Pictured above: Clive Howes – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)