Why Chelsea’s handling of young talent is wrong and damaging

Why Chelsea’s handling of young talent is wrong and damaging

Thibaut Courtois

I recently wrote an article regarding the loan system and how it was an important factor in helping less financially capable clubs break the stranglehold that the richer clubs have on the Champions League qualifying spots. Then a few days later, out of nowhere, a name pinged into my brain that made me step back and realise that the loan system is as damaging as it is fruitful.


Gael Kakuta. No? Cast your minds back several years and you may remember him as the young Frenchman that Chelsea got into a considerable amount of trouble over signing. Kakuta was found to be in direct violation of his contractual agreement with previous club Lens and was subsequently banned from playing for three months and fined a sizeable sum of money. Chelsea, on the other hand, were fined and placed within the confines of a transfer ban that was successfully repealed several months later.

Its almost five years since the transfer embargo and what does Kakuta and Chelsea Football Club have to show for it? Six Premier League first team appearances and five largely unsuccessful loans stints with the likes of Bolton, Vitesse and French outfit Dijon. Doesn’t really cut the mustard does it?

This is not to say that Chelsea should accept all the blame for Kakuta’s inability to convert immense potential into unquestionable brilliance. The player must also have the right attitude, something which reports have suggested over the years has been duly lacking from the Frenchman.

Kakuta, though, is not the only player to have either been brought in at an early age or progressed through the ranks at academy level only to then be shipped out on-loan season after season. Josh McEachran, Sam Hutchinson, Ryan Bertrand and Patrick Van Aanholt have all experienced what it is like to have a brief taste of first team action at Chelsea before being cast off to various parts of the country or to Chelsea’s feeder club, Vitesse.

This sort of treatment is simply not conducive to productive growth as a footballer. If the premise behind the loaning of a young player to another club is gaining experience in preparation for first team football, then where is the incentive to maintain a high performance level if that very same player is just going to be sent out on loan at every given opportunity.

What’s more worrying is the number of home grown players that are suffering because of this obscure loan policy. There was a time not so long ago that Ryan Bertrand was being tipped to become Ashley Cole’s long term replacement for club and country. Now neither seem plausible due to the introduction of Cesar Azpilicueta and the seemingly impending arrival of highly rated left-back Alberto Moreno. Similarly, Josh McEachran seems destined to be kept at arms length by his parent club as the Blues continuously load up on superstar midfield talent such as Oscar, Matic, Ramires and Willian.

Its a distorted ideology that seems to promote the development of young players to then shut them out by buying in already proven talent. This warped system has Roman Abramovich’s fingerprints all over it. The Russian business tycoon’s undeniable obsession with winning the Champions League leaves no possible room for gradual youth development, as more experienced proven players are brought in on a conveyor belt. This has been the way at Chelsea for a decade now and there has been little to indicate that a change is on the horizon.


It would be unfair to just pinpoint Chelsea as the main offender of poor youth management. Manchester City bought in starlets Scott Sinclair and John Guidetti only to then send them on their way again. Manchester United have done the exact same with Federico Macheda who has been loaned out to six different clubs, and Bebe who is now on his fourth different loan spell. Amazingly, Tottenham’s Andros Townsend has previously been loaned out to nine different clubs. Fortunately for him though he seems to have withstood the test of time and is finally breaking through in to the Tottenham and England set-ups.

Chelsea Loan XIIt is at Chelsea, though, where the issue is much more absurd. So absurd in fact that an entire starting XI can be made out of players that are out on loan. These are the supposed names of Chelsea’s future, and yet it is highly likely that Courtois, Zouma and Lukaku will be the only ones that actually ever stand a chance at forcing their way into Jose Mourinho’s plans.

Also, I should add that it would be completely ignorant of me to assume that every young player will always make it big and have a successful career. For some players it just isn’t meant to be, whether it is mentality, injuries or just overstated talent. But for a club like Chelsea, with all the financial power, coaching resources and experience that they have, should surely be able to work more closely with their younger players and ensure that their are less instances of footballing careers flat lining. It is becoming far too much of a regular occurrence.

The case of Gael Kakuta is really just one incident of many in the recent history of Chelsea FC and their mismanagement of the young and talented footballers that they have either been hoovering up from smaller clubs or have been bringing through from academy level. During his loan spell at Vitesse he was quoted as saying, “I don’t dream about Chelsea any more – I used to, now I know better”. If Chelsea do not address the current state of their youth policy then Kakuta’s words will be echoed by every academy player that once harboured ambitions of becoming a Chelsea legend. The cult of the one man club will be a long lost memory.

Do you disagree with my comments about Chelsea’s youth policy? Please leave a comment below…

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  1. i agree with u i am a big fan of the blues but i think thy shud look at this system they just dont give da kids da chance they deserve instead thy concentrate in bringing already proven talents! kids like piazon shud get a chance

  2. I agree with ur coment,chelsea shoulld try and develop some of their loan players by giving them chance to prove their worth in small games, d likes of piazon, lukaku,chaloba,huthingson, islam ferus, christenson, van han hollt, josh mchrechraan shud b giving chance to prove their worth, cfc prefer By a player of which some of our youth players could give us wat we r lookin out for. E.G y buy kurt zouma wen we av kalas, christenson n sam huthingson

  3. In some way u are right, but we wish jose will corrit all of that and make things right….. One love to all chelsea fans out there….!!!!!!!

  4. totally disagree mate. i’m glad you are not just having a pop at chelsea when you mention city, utd etc. but the likes of tomas kalas who had as good a debut as you’ll see at anfield on sunday proves that if you are good enough and patient enough you WILL get your chance eventually. english clubs don’t have the luxery of b teams playing in a lower division in the same counrty like real madrid and barcelona. hence the loan system.most loans offer a higher level of competition than the current reserve/u21 setups. this topic has been argued time and time again, and the only fault with the system is the sheer numbers involved at any given time. most of kakuta’s fortunes can only be put down to him definitly not being good enough. simply didn’t fulfil his early promise. the likes of macheda and bebe were never that good either. and what’s the alternative, which you so ungraciously don’t seem to offer? poga anybody?

  5. I’m in support of ur comments and statements. Infact it has also bothered me that this lads are nt being givn the chance to prove their worth. It is really alarming and must be taken into focus. This lads have talent, as we cn see in Arsenal. The youths are being given the chance to prove their worth and clearly we all cn see the result. These lads wen givn d chance will definitely prove themselves as we cud see what they were able to perform during the pre-season. So instead of goin for big names, lets make them big time players, cos Rome was nt built in a day.

  6. Kakuta didn’t have a contractual agreement with Lens, because to have one before 16 is illegal. The complaint to Uefa was part of their blackmail to get larger training compensation than they were entitled to. The transfer ban was lifted prior to the January window opening, no fine was applied and was settled before Lens could’ve been found not entitled to making money out of children they had no right to.

    So the entire basis of the piece is wrong and the rest makes no sense.

    Well done you…

  7. Couldn’t disagree with you more. If you read up on Kakuta, all his coaches will tell you he has a poor attitude and does not work hard enough in training to be world-class, not to say he isn’t a fantastic talent. And to say that Chelsea have ruined these players’ careers is just nonsensical really. Bertrand is a Champions League Medal holder, and while he was never the everyday LB for the club, he served his time and will likely end up with a more involved role at a great club like Aston Villa, that’s nothing to sneeze at mate. McEachern as well is too early to make a call, but it looks unlikely that he will ever make it, though Ancelotti did give the lad his chances. The problem is not the system, but rather the revolving door of managers and coaches, who each have different ideas and values in regards to talent. Hutchinson is a different story in that he’s been beset by injuries and just wont ever make the grade now, unfortunately. Many players that come through the academy end up having pretty good careers elsewhere; Fabio Borini, Jack Cork, Carlton Cole, Robert Huth, Ben Sahar, Scott Sinclair and many others that I can’t think of at the moment have gone on to pretty good clubs and had success. Success cannot only be determined by “making it” at Chelsea…

    • We’ll said mate. The amount of pea brains set loos here defuse logic. Never miss a chance to have a go at one of the most successful academies on the planet. Other clubs should be glad of clubs like chelsea.

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