What's Really Happening with Chelsea's Focus on Youth?
Chelsea's youth movement made a significant upgrade with the signing of Cristian Cuevas this week.
The 17-yaer-old Chilean U20 international joins the club as a midfielder after plying his trade with O’Higgins back in his home country. (And if you're wondering how a Latin American club could come up with a name like that, it's a revolutionary thing.)
The deal cost the Blues £1.7 million after the youngster lit up his trial at Stamford Bridge. Come summer, he is set to join his new teammates.
Chelsea’s manager, Rafael Benitez, says he's keen on securing young talent as a way to safeguard the club's future. It sounds good, as this is certainly a paradigm shift from the club’s policy under chariman Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch whose spending sprees of yore led to the club being derisively known as 'Chelski.'
But it rings hollow. Nothing happens at Chelsea because its manager wants it to happen. Big decisions emanate from on high.
Yes, as level-headed as this youth movement sounds, the reality is the Blues have to do it. They must comply with the financial restrictor plate that is the UEFA Financial Fair Play policy. The club’s wage bill had to come down, and so the age of the players being signed came down to make it happen.
For now, Chelsea is taking the high road, as opposed to some of its collegues in the Premiership. It may well be that the actual pressure will be on the likes of Cuevas and Omeru to prove that doing something in an ethical manner can actually work. It would be a stunning epiphany for football's mega-rich owners.
If so, that will be the real news.