Chelsea’s academy unlikely to produce any first teamers soon
The names are interchangeable and the outcome tends to be universally dispiriting. Chelsea have signed Luca Savelloni, the Italy Under-17 goalkeeper, for £1.7million from Pescara. That’s loose change for an academy that has swallowed upwards of £70million with little apparent impact.
As every Chelsea fan knows, John Terry is the last homegrown player to become a first-team regular. The “Captain, Leader, Legend” banner at Stamford Bridge, which testifies to the cult of his personality, cannot conceal the cracks in the façade of the club’s long-term strategy.
Without wishing to put too fine a point on it, Chelsea’s recruitment policy is an expensive version of throwing mud at a wall, to see what sticks. Legions of youngsters, usually foreign, have been ushered into the Cobham training complex with great fanfare, only to be discarded with muted thanks for their efforts.
Some deals invite the suspicion they are little more than feelgood stories. Take the Dasilva brothers. Chelsea did, from Luton Town’s Centre of Excellence. Rio and Cole are 12. Jay is 13. Each cost a “five-figure sum”. Luton, who have a vested interest in talking things up, suggest the deal could eventually be worth £1million. The lads might have great footballer’s names, but will they make it? It is long odds against.
All transfers are a gamble. When they involve boys with developing bodies and characters they are an imprecise form of human engineering. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with scouts recently, and have seen Chelsea at youth and reserve-team level. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is convinced the club’s principal prospects will make it into the first team.
Lucas Piazon (pictured above) arrived from Brazil with a big reputation and a big basic fee, £4million. He has good technique, and a range of tricks and flicks, but would be eaten alive by Premier League defenders. Nat Chalobah, a languid central defender born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has the best chance of making himself a career. He was a fixture in the England Under-17 team from the age of 14.
Should this bother the next Chelsea manager, whoever he may be? Not really, because he is unlikely to be around long enough to benefit from the boy who gets the breaks. It is the boys who are broken by the system we should worry about.
Watch Chelsea live on BT Vision:
Man City v Chelsea, live 7pm, 19 March, Sky Sports 1
Chelsea v Tottenham, live midday, 24 March, Sky Sports 2
Not got BT Vision? Find out how to get it