View: Chelsea academy is unnecessarily propping up transfer market blunders
The pursuit of Nathan Ake has highlighted a flawed system at Chelsea that wastes the major benefits of their academy talent.
The Manchester City defender, a former Cobham product, had already agreed personal terms to return to Stamford Bridge before the Premier League champions called the deal off when their £45million asking price wasn’t met [Guardian].
But it surely should never have reached that point for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the hole in the Blues’ defence that they are scrambling to fill this summer, while partly caused by the unexpected inability to conduct regular business earlier this year following former owner Roman Abramovich’s government sanctions, would never have been there if Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi hadn’t both recently been sold.
With the deals for Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen approaching their conclusions, the two English centre-backs were let go to AC Milan and Crystal Palace respectively.
Tomori is now a Scudetto winner and Guehi, who didn’t even get a chance in the first team before leaving, has since broken into the England senior squad.
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Those two really should have been available to step up and have that success at the club that trained them from a young age, but a decent but not spectacular fee now was deemed more attractive in each case – £25million for Tomori [Sky Sports] and £20million for Guehi [Guardian].
The next option from the same production line is 19-year-old Levi Colwill, fresh from a strong loan spell at Huddersfield, and yet the club were apparently ready to let him leave on a permanent deal [Fabrizio Romano] as well this summer in order to spend big on Ake, who they had also sold to Bournemouth five years previously after only a handful of senior games.
That they were willing to do this so soon after shifting ex-academy striker Tammy Abraham to Roma for £40million in order to spend a club record £97million on yet another former player in Romelu Lukaku is surprising.
The Englishman did well in Serie A while the Belgian struggled in the Premier League and was not an upgrade on the younger man, showing that with the benefit of hindsight they would have been better off saving £47million and not doing either deal.
Lukaku originally arrived as a teenager over a decade ago and, while not part of the academy, falls into the same bracket of youngsters not afforded adequate opportunities before being moved on.
His arrival also saw 20-year-old Armando Broja move to Southampton on loan, and despite the big-money man being back at Inter already, there is still the potential that the young Albanian won’t be kept this summer, with Everton and West Ham ready to spend.
Bringing the likes of Lukaku, and almost Ake, back at great expense isn’t terrible in itself if they can do the right job, but doing so at the direct expense of talented youngsters already at the club’s disposal who could arguably do it just as well makes little sense.
Yes, cashing in on academy players has allowed the club to make big moves in the transfer market, but that strategy would be unnecessary in many cases if they cut out the middle man and plugged them straight in.
The days where John Terry was the only academy graduate are now long gone, with Mason Mount and Reece James among current first-team stars.
But a continued tendency to forego players who are not yet the finished article in order to spend heavily in the market seems like finding a solution for a problem at the same time as causing it in the first place.
There is always a pressure to win now at Chelsea, but for all the money spent on established stars in the past few seasons there is not a long list of undisputed hits, so they aren’t necessarily much better off than if they’d used inconsistent players that cost nothing.
Chelsea no longer have an endless well of money to rely on so finding a better balance between youth products and big-money buys surely has to be a priority for new chairman Todd Boehly, but the recent developments around Colwill and Broja suggest there is a way to go on that front.
In other Chelsea news, Everton will turn to Tino Anjorin if they can’t get Morgan Gibbs-White.