Jose Mourinho has vowed to promote a number of Chelsea’s top youth academy players — an U-18 and U-19 group that has been labeled something of a golden generation — into the club’s first-team squad for the 2015-16 season.
Chelsea’s U-19 team captured the UEFA Youth League title last week, while the Blues’ U-18 squad is set to compete in its fourth-straight FA Youth Cup final this weekend.
Among the group of highly-rated and successful youngsters is 19-year-old midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who made his first-team debut in a 7-minute substitute appearance earlier this year and has been handpicked by Mourinho as the pick of the litter, alongside Andreas Christensen and Dominic Solanke.
Mourinho, on Loftus-Cheek and the rest of Chelsea’s youngsters, from the Daily Mail:
“Next season, Ruben will not be a kid in the development process. He will be a first-team player, absolutely ready to play and compete. And we will do the same with two or three or four players.
“Some of the older ones will go on loan to play every game in the Championship or the Premier League, even abroad. And we will bring some of the younger ones into the process. But to have them all at the same time in the first-team squad is hard.
“I cannot have a squad of 10 men and 10 kids. I must have a squad like we have now of 16 or 17 seniors and three or four kids.”
Of course, Chelsea could choose to go out this summer and spend $60 million to sign Paul Pogba from Juventus, effectively blocking any path into the first team for Loftus-Cheek.
Often times at a big club like Chelsea — or Manchester City, who have also invested heavily in their youth academy but are yet to see much payoff for the first team — there’s a major disconnect between those in charge of the youth academy and the head honcho in charge of the first team.
It’s easy to blame a manager for failing to bring through promising youngsters, instead opting to spend big bucks in the transfer market, but in the win-now world of top-level soccer, where a manager’s job is on the line a season after winning the title (Manuel Pellegrini, anyone?), should it come as a surprise that John Terry, now 34, was the last player to come through the Chelsea academy and win a place in the first team?
Managers play a big part in integrating young players and giving them first-team experience, but more of them — perhaps even a majority — might be willing to do so if they knew their job wouldn’t be at risk after a half-season’s worth of poor results. As is the case with any business, it starts at the top.