Chelsea reap the benefits of youth loans
As avowed enemies of football, it is always pleasing when Chelsea find another way to wreak their evil on the game.
September 10th, 2014
Thus the revelation of the club’s on-loan army of 26 players – bubbling away in a Frankensteinian European football lab (also known as Vitesse Arnhem) was particularly joyful to behold.
Such a destructive influence by one club – to corner the market in young talent, then put it into the deep freeze at Bejam alongside the crispy pancakes and potato waffles, just so no other clubs can’t get hold of it. Boo, hiss!
The loan system as we now know it, and Chelsea brazenly play it, is a product of Financial Fair Play (FFP).
UEFA contrived a system whereby clubs can only fund their lust for silverware by raising cash from football. Or, if Spanish, from the King or one of the local bankrupt banks.
Thus a few years back, the 12 green lizards that tend the turf at Stamford Bridge, came up with a policy unheard of in other nouveau riche footballing circles such as Eastlands and the Parc des Princes – why fight FFP, when we can make it work for us?
Deputy Assistant Lizard Michael Emenalo was sent off around the world with a big fat cheque book to buy talent.
And so they came. From Germany and Mexico. From Brazil and Slovenia. And from Belgium – quite a lot from there.
Chelsea incubated this talent, using a mix of world class training facilities at home, and strategic development links in the UK and Europe.
To start with, a lot of people couldn’t see the wood for the trees – and I have to say I was one of them.
What do we want with a Kevin De Bruyne, a Christian Atsu or a Joao Rodriguez?
But Emenalo, derided by many (again including myself), had a plan. He had spotted a new economy – not the markets, not property, not art.
This was an investment model where punting relatively small amounts of cash reaped huge rewards in just a few years.
The investment was in talent.
Parts of this conformed to a classic model – buy a player, nurture him, stick him in the first team. Chelsea did a bit of this, but not much.
But there are still parts that seem to baffle many otherwise sharp commentators.
Players bought for not much have increased in value. Some of them, let’s take Ulises Davila as an example, not a whole lot – but probably enough to eventually turn a small profit.
Others, say De Bruyne or Romelu Lukaku, have brought in pots of cash.
Chelsea took a practically no-lose bet on those two – first team staples if they turn out good enough, cash to spend on other players if they don’t.
And, when they didn’t, European football had two players who had acquired the benefits of the Chelsea training model.
And so we find ourselves at the end of a transfer window where the world has been turned on its head.
Chelsea, outlandish title-buyers, practically balanced their books on player purchases this summer – as good as bottom of the spending league.
Meanwhile football’s old order, the clubs who FFP was really put in place to protect, did things like spend £135m+ in the lunch-hour between one transfer ban and another.
It’s a strange new world, when football’s enemy starts looking like a model for the responsible running of a club.
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