In the past few days Chelsea have announced their first signings of the summer, with the confirmed captures of Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko for around £34m and £40m respectively.
But though the arrival of two of the most highly rated young players in world football is a positive step in terms of Chelsea’s immediate improvement as a side, their respective moves have also necessitated the departure of Chelsea youth graduates Nathan Ake and Nathaniel Chalobah.
Ake, Chalobah, Loftus Cheek, Zouma all going on loan or been sold. Youth is non existent at Chelsea— Luke (@LukeyboiWalker) July 13, 2017
Chalobah joined The Blues at the age of 10 and spent more 12 years at the club, earning 97 caps at various international age groups. Following successful loan moves to the likes Reading, Burnley and Napoli, Chalobah finally broke into Chelsea’s first team squad last season, and was used by Antonio Conte as a reliable defensive option in midfield, late on in games.
However, following the announcement that Monaco enforcer Tiemoue Bakayoko had joined The Blues, Chalobah was sold to Watford on a permanent deal. At £6m the deal was 8-times less expensive than that of Bakayoko and a like for like buy in terms of their position in central midfield.
Nathan Ake was a revelation on loan at Bournemouth last season, scoring 3 goals in 12 games before being recalled to the Chelsea squad to provide defensive cover.
The 22-year-old looked to be Chelsea’s brightest young defensive product since John Terry, who made his senior debut for the club in 1998.
However, in similar circumstances, Ake was offloaded for £20m back to Bournemouth following the arrival of Germany international centre-back Antonio Rudiger from Roma.
In many ways their departures are understandable; Chelsea and Abramovich’s relentless drive for success necessarily precludes the possibility of carrying young and inexperienced players in big games. Dominic Solanke, who was sold to Liverpool for £3m in the past few days could well have been a major star for Chelsea, but the Premier League champions just aren't prepared to wait.
With ample funds made available to The Blues’ succession of short-lived managers, its clear that transitioning youngsters into first team players has been overlooked in favour of signing experienced competitors, old enough and sufficiently developed to compete on the big stages.
At any one time Chelsea have over 30 players out on loan with the West Londoners’ self proclaimed ‘talent factory’ developing and then loaning such an excessive number of youth players that it is practically impossible for a significant percentage of them to break into Chelsea’s first team.
Though Chelsea have won 6 FA Youth Cups in 8 years, the departure of these young players suggests that, despite encouraging signs that Chelsea are investing in youth, The Blues’ development system has become a little more than a cute money-maker.