Chelsea striker Ike Ugbo says MK Dons' success in helping the likes of influential Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli and former Arsenal striker Benik Afobe to develop their young careers was the inspiration behind his decision to join the League One club on loan.
Ugbo completed his move to Stadium MK on Thursday (4 January) on a temporary deal set to run until the end of the 2017-18 campaign, just 24 hours after his season-long stint with Championship side Barnsley was terminated early by the defending Premier League champions.
The 19-year-old, a prolific goal-getter at Under-18 and Under-23 level who previously represented Chelsea against Football League opposition in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy, found the net just once in 18 total appearances under Paul Heckingbottom at Oakwell and was without a start since late November.
Ugbo will now hope to adapt better to life in the third tier, where he can boost an MK Dons side that have won just two of their last 15 league games under Robbie Neilson and fallen to 19th in the table, two points above the relegation zone.
"I'm delighted to join such a great club and I can't wait to get started," he told mkdons.com. "I've settled in well today – the players made me feel comfortable and at home.
"The players MK Dons have helped develop over the years like Dele Alli and Benik Afobe inspired me to come here. Hopefully I can do my best to help the team climb up the table."
Alli came through the youth system at his hometown club and spent time back on loan in Milton Keynes after being snapped up by Tottenham in a £5m ($6.7m) deal in February 2015. Afobe, now at Bournemouth, scored 19 goals in 30 games earlier that season during a productive spell that was ended prematurely when Wolverhampton Wanderers reached a permanent agreement with Arsenal.
MK Dons have previously raided Chelsea to take the likes of Patrick Bamford and Lewis Baker - both currently at Middlesbrough - on loan.
Discussing the arrival of Ugbo, who is technically the second player to leave the Blues this month after Diego Costa officially completed his £57m return to Atletico Madrid, the under-fire Neilson expressed delight that he was able to finally secure the addition of a player he initially targeted during the summer transfer window.
"Ike was one of our main targets during the summer but he went to the Championship," he said. "We're really pleased, though, that it is worked out for us in January. He will definitely add a lot to the team – he's a natural finisher but he's also got great link play and good pace and physicality."
Subject to clearance from the relevant governing bodies, Ugbo could make his MK Dons debut on Saturday as they travel to Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the FA Cup before the small matter of a crunch clash with rivals AFC Wimbledon on 13 January.