Should this starlet have chosen Liverpool over Chelsea?

Last month, Liverpool were beaten to yet another priority transfer target as Mohamed Salah rejected an Anfield move in favour of joining Premier League title hunters Chelsea.

According to Reds chief Ian Ayre, the Mersyside outfit were willing to meet FC Basel’s £11million asking price, but the Egyptian international made his intentions of a West London switch abundantly clear amid negotiations.

You can certainly understand the decision. Why move to a club that hasn’t featured in the Champions League since the 2009/10 campaign when you could join a side that claimed the European title just 18 months ago? Why join a Liverpool side gunning for fourth place when you could team up with a Chelsea squad who have the Premier League title in their cross hairs?

But considering the vast contrast in fortunes of youngsters on Merseyside in comparison to those at Stamford Bridge, has the 21 year-old made the right decision in joining the Blues, or will it be one he soon comes to regret?

Jose Mourinho has been quick to point out Manchester City’s failure to abide by the Financial Fair Play laws this week following news of their £52million loss in 2013, dubbing the Etihad outfit’s take on proceedings as ‘dodgy FFP’, although he didn’t name the Citizens outright as the object of his scrutiny.

But the truth is that Chelsea have outspent their title rivals by around £20million this season, and their ability to do so whilst remaining in UEFA’s good books  is spawned from their model of sourcing young talents and then farming them out to European clubs to gain value.

Kevin De Bruyne is a classic example – the Blues picked him up for £8million from Genk in 2012 and then sold the mifielder to Wolfsburg just two seasons later for £17million, despite him making only nine senior appearances at Stamford Bridge. The added profit comes from the Belgium international’s loan spell at Werder Bremen, where he netted ten times in 33 appearances.

It’s the same process for most of Chelsea’s young signings. Affiliate club Vitesse Arnhem currently have five Blues youngsters on their books, but it’s more than likely the likes of Christian Atsu, Bertrand Traore, Patrick Van Aanholt, Lucas Piazon and Cristian Cuevas will all be sold on for profit, rather than ever forge a permanent position for themselves in the Stamford Bridge first team, regardless of how positive their Eredivisie tenures prove to be.

Every Premier League club does this to some extent – Tottenham for example, snapped up Lewis Holtby for just £1.25 million because the chances are that the German international will always be sold for significantly more.

But over the last five years or so, Chelsea have undoubtedly become the masters in investing in young players and selling them on. It’s become almost machine-like in its efficiency and global in its scale.

Right now, the West Londoners have 22 players on loan, and four more which returned to Stamford Bridge from temporary spells last month. But with the exceptions of Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku, the chances are that most of these players will never even be graced with a senior debut for their parent club.

This is the money-making loan farm Mohamed Salah does not want to find himself wrapped up in, but could easily do so considering he has to battle the likes of Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Oscar for a regular spot on either flank and all four were purchased for significantly more than the former FC Basel star.

Compare that to the conditions on Merseyside. Since taking the Liverpool hot-seat in summer 2012, Brendan Rodgers has got the Anfield house in order by investing in youngsters and giving them the opportunities to prove themselves.

The process has paid off dividends as the likes of Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling – all under the age of 25 – forge regular spots for themselves in the Reds starting XI, and the club stands it’s greatest chance of Champions League qualification since 2009. At the same time, John Flanagan, Martin Kelly, Jordan Ibe, Andre Wisdom, Joe Allen, Luis Alberto, Suso and Fabio Borini, all under the age 23, have all been in and around the squad over the last 18 months.

Much of that has to do with the Ulsterman’s coaching background, with his first non-playing jobs in football being a youth coach at Reading and subsequently at Stamford Bridge.  Youth and potential are central pillars of how Rodgers envisages his rebuilding of the Anfield club, and he’s  quite clearly a manager who prefers nurturing young talents to maintaining established footballers already at their physical and technical peaks.

Jose Mourinho on the other hand, is famed for his reluctance to take a risk on young players throughout his spells with Chelsea, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Porto, instead turning his pragmatic attentions to experienced professionals that have proved their quality upteen times before. This season, out of a squad of 25 players, he’s only issued Premier League starts to 22 of them – four of which are no longer at the club – giving you some idea how hard it actually is to break into the Portuguese’s first team plans. Even more worryingly for Mohamed Salah, only four have been under the age of 23, one of which is now a Wolfsburg player.

That’s why the 21 year-old could come to regret his decision to join the Blues this January instead of  Liverpool, where Brendan Rodgers has a huge gaping hole in the Reds first team the Egyptian international would have immediately filled.

The former Basel star needs to ask himself why Chelsea bought him. Was it because they think he’ll become the next Arjen Robben, as Branislav Ivanovic has recently labelled the youngster? Was it because they didn’t want to lose out on one of Europe’s leading young talents to a divisional rival? Was it due to the Blues lacking that natural width going forward this season? Or was it because he’ll probably be worth more than what they bought him for by the time he’s 23?’s Liam Twomey has labelled the Chelsea model as ‘buy now, play later’, but as with many of Chelsea’s young signings, it remains to be seen whether Salah will actually play for his parent club on more than an occasional basis.

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