Right off the bat it’s easy to come to a conclusion on the big-money clubs in European football: none of them are in the business of developing youth, especially those coming through their own academies.
In the modern game, youth development has either become a matter of tradition or necessity. Clubs like Ajax have vastly differing means with which to build, from financial capabilities to the draw of their own club and league in comparison to Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Yet they still follow the same ideals of developing their own as a primary means to success. It’s in their tradition to do so and it will continue to be long into the future.
As for clubs like Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao and many other Spanish clubs, they have had to dip into their canteras because it’s the only option they have. Spanish football on the whole has benefited greatly from it, and so too in turn has English football with many clubs catching onto the bargains to be had in Spain over the English premium that is required for home grown players in the Premier League. But it didn’t happen overnight; these clubs have invested and are reaping the benefits of their academies to varying degrees.
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Roman Abramovich, however, has deemed it necessary for Chelsea to look to youth as a means to create the future of the club’s core, probably in another act to swipe a few ideas from those on the continent who he wishes to emulate.
It will never work. For one, Abramovich will never offer managers the time to develop young players. The need for instant success at Stamford Bridge is such that the revolving door of managers can never have a lasting effect on youth, as most are brought in to bring results today as oppose to tomorrow. For all that Abramovich has learned of himself, and in turn what the football world has learned of him, how can he take his new idea seriously when history suggests it’s beyond achievable?
Not only that, but surely there is something in the managers he appoints that determines whether this unlikely project is set for failure. Jose Mourinho has a reputation as a spend big, win now manager. Where in his history at any of the major clubs he’s coached has he been a success at bringing through a young player? Raphael Varane springs to mind, and that was Mourinho’s greatest offering to Real Madrid last season. But was it through choice or was Varane’s rapid rise incidental? Would he have played so regularly if there weren’t stories of fallout between Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Mourinho, and of course if Raul Albiol wasn’t only there to make up the numbers?
Abramovich may have his fears that the Chelsea team will lose its identity once Frank Lampard and John Terry retire, or something to that effect. But hasn’t that been the case ever since he rolled into Stamford Bridge and decided to plough absurd amounts of money into the club?
Football today and its lack of patience right across the board doesn’t allow for youth development for those who are looking to make a name for themselves. Chelsea, of course, are much, much further along than contemporaries like Monaco, PSG and Anzhi, but it’s still a case of keeping up with the Joneses. How can Chelsea watch PSG sign Edinson Cavani for €60 million and instead opt to turn to their own youth academy in order fill out their squad? Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s simply beyond the realms of reality.
If this is what Abramovich wants then fine, but he himself has to understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. Sure, money has been spent on the club’s youth academy and the right coaching staff are in place with talents on the books. But someone, specifically someone who understands football, needs to have a word with Abramovich and explain that the trigger-happy tendencies need to come to an end, that youth can be a viable option but there needs to be greater emphasis rather than just dipping into the market to appease his own insatiable desire for the next marquee name.
Can Chelsea’s youth academy be a success under Abramovich?
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