Amidst the public trials and tribulations of first-team transfer activity, the second half of Chelsea’s twin recruitment battle is progressing without much drama.
Five months after the summer deals saw Carney Chukwuemeka, Cesare Casadei, Omari Hutchinson and Gabriel Slonina signed, Chelsea moved quickly from the transfer window that closed last Sunday to secure forward David Datro Fofana from Molde and midfielder Andrey Santos from Vasco da Gama.
Also monitoring one of Brazil’s future under-20 team-mates, Athletico Paranaense forward Vitor Roque, and working together to make Palmeiras feel Endrick’s 16-year-old finally chose Real Madrid. Dynamo Moscow midfielder Arsen Zakharyan also remains of interest despite the complications in Russia due to UK government sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.
More talented youngsters, English and others from further afield, will be targeted in future windows.
Speaking to Norwegian newspaper VG when the Fofana move was completed, Ivorian manager Atta Aneke said of Chelsea: “They want to sign the best young talents in the world and they have a very clear plan on how to make them as successful as possible.”
That “flat plan” has been approved in meetings with many of these perspectives and their advisers, despite the fact that one of its main aspects is not yet in place.
Co-owner and chairman Todd Boehly elaborated on that during his extended interview at Salt’s business conference with New York in August.
“The challenge that Chelsea has now is one of those that when you have superstars at 18, 19, 20 years old, you can loan them to other clubs, but you put the development in someone else’s hands,” said Boehly. . “The goal is to ensure that we can show ways for our young superstars to get on the pitch at Chelsea while getting them real game time.
“For me, the way to do that is through another club somewhere – in a really competitive league in Europe.
“What we really need is to put our 18, 19, 20-year-olds in a place to develop them, in Portugal, Belgium, or somewhere like that.”
Postponing Boehly’s definition of “superstars” a little loose, his intention was clear: to establish a multi-key structure not for the use of merchants or brands, as Manchester City did, but to organize the development of talents more carefully and precisely. young players
Boehly specifically cited the success of the Red Bull’s reign with Red Salzburg, RB Leipzig and more as an example, and Chelsea’s subsequent appointment of Christopher Vivell from the rear club must be considered in part in this context. Chelsea’s other senior recruits — Laurence Stewart, Paul Winstanley and Joe Shields — also have previous experience working in multi-club structures, often with a player focus.
Neil Bath’s promotion from academy director to director of football development and operations further underlines how central the culture of young talent is to the long-term model Boehly and co-owners Clearlake want to bring to Chelsea. Shields, with their extensive and proven youth recruitment site at Manchester City, should play an important role in this area as well.
Chelsea have also been proactive in looking for a suitable club partner.
Portimonense and Estoril, both in the middle and lower regions of the top flight of Portugal, were carefully considered, but in the end they considered it to be foreign. Ligue 2 promotion side Sochaux in France has been identified as a potential option, but no agreement has been reached.
That search takes on new urgency now that Chelsea’s youth recruitment is in full swing. Chukwuemeka is already trusted with real first-team minutes under head coach Graham Potter and regularly names Hutchinson in his squad, but Casadei, Slonina, Fofana and Santos all need more senior exposure to continue their development.
Boehly showed good awareness in that salty interview about the shortcomings of the mass loan system then driven by Chelsea’s technical director Michael Emenalo under Roman Abramovich’s rule; even with the unusually close tacit relationship forged with Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in the early 2010s, the inherent volatile nature of player development could overcome another independent development with its own interests and priorities.
But that’s the thing that is involved in the latest young Chelsea recruits: the sunken choice between Cobham’s peg of his parent stays at the base at a time when even the minutes of the domestic cup are more limited than usual, or are worshiped on the side who are in the middle. putting the moments and events of those times into the background.
This uncertainty about the path of development has other effects.
Players currently included in Chelsea’s development squad and the younger academy age groups can be evaluating their first team prospects in light of Boehly and Clearlac’s spending spree to strengthen the first-team squad, which largely includes players under the age of 25.
Without the confidence of senior exposure invested by the satellite club in helping it fulfill its potential, some will accept more conventional personnel, while others will not. In the latter case, the trend of running out of contracts and forcing permanent exits, which has become higher in recent years under Abramovich, will continue.
Boehly and Clearlake have already indicated their desire to avoid selling young talent wherever possible. Armando Broja was convinced to spur serious Premier League interest next summer and sign a long-term contract in place. Levi Colwill was only allowed to join Brighton on loan last summer, although they preferred to buy him.
The only notable young man Chelsea have sold since the change of ownership is Billy Gilmour, also of Brighton, with his departure only reluctantly sanctioned after he himself asked to be allowed to leave. It’s classic private equity thinking: accumulate as many assets with the potential to represent future growth as possible, and never sell low.
Chelsea will move elite youth talent that Boehly and Clearlake hope will keep — and perhaps even earn — those 10 million in the transfer market in the coming years, but it will only work if they can be provided with a platform that will lift the way up. .
It is getting some of the best young footballers around midfield.
(Top photo: Omari Hutchinson, David Datro Fofana and Carney Chukwuemeka; all Getty Images)