In a sport where the need for amalgamating youth with experience is imperative, Chelsea have been bucking this trend. The last player to emerge from the Chelsea youth ranks and actually make it into the first team was John Terry, in 2003. Since then, the prerogative for the club has been to snap up big names for huge transfer fees and relegate the young budding players either to the bench, where they make sporadic appearances in the League Cup, or get demoted to the reserves, where they have to play until another club comes to rescue them.
Here is a list of five players who made it through the youth team or have been bought for exorbitant fees from other clubs, only to fade out of the limelight. Since then, they have sought their fortune elsewhere and have performed well, where they have finally lived up to their potential.
1. SCOTT SINCLAIR
This tricky winger had signed for Chelsea in 2005 from Bristol Rovers. He never got into the first team picture, being farmed out on loan to many Championship sides, including Plymouth Argyle, QPR, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic. His pace, excellent dribbling coupled with flair and a perfect crossing ability was what made him hot property among the Championship clubs, with no more than 15 out of 24 sides wanting to get his signature. After spending a long time warming the bench at Chelsea, he finally secured a move to Swansea, where he has become an integral part of Brendan Rodger’s plans and is a key cog of Swansea’s well-oiled machine which dishes out fast-paced attractive football week-in week-out.
2. FRANCO DI SANTO
This promising Argentine forward was signed in 2008. He was initially deployed in the reserves, where he completed a full year, scoring 12 goals. He was then promoted to the first team, where he had to contend with substitute appearances. He was then loaned out to Blackburn Rovers, where he had his breakthrough season. His clever assists and equally sublime goals was one of the main catalysts behind Rovers’ inspired form in the first half of the 2009-10 season. Wigan Athletic then bought him for two million, where he has become a first team player and has been instrumental in their stunning form of late, which includes wins over Manchester United, Arsenal and Newcastle. If things had panned out differently for Di Santo, perhaps Chelsea would not have spent 50 million on Fernando Torres.
3. FABIO BORINI
Borini was signed from Bologna, following which he was predictably moved to the Chelsea reserves. A string of excellent performances for them has earned him a call-up to the first team squad by the then manager Carlo Ancelotti. But to date, his only start in a Chelsea jersey was a Champions League encounter against minnows Apoel Nicosia. This precocious Italian was then sent on loan to Swansea, where his dazzling displays and awesome goals were pivotal in the Swans’ push for promotion. Later on, it emerged that he had already signed a contract with FC Parma, even before he had joined Swansea. There began his rise, as some eye-catching performances compelled Roma to shell out 2 million for his signature, which has since proven to be one of the bargains of the season. He has impressed for the Romans, scoring 10 goals in 21 appearances. He has since been called up to the Italian squad, making his international debut against the United States. A bright future beckons for the former Chelsea striker.
4. JEFFREY BRUMA
Bruma is simply one of the world’s brightest prospects for the future. A fee of 100,000 pounds for a 15-year old speaks volumes about his ability. He was bought from Feyenoord, where he absolutely awed the youth coaches with some scintillating displays. He is a very flexible player, who can play as centre-back, or as a right- back. But he can also slot in into the centre midfield position, something which is rare among defenders today. After being frustrated with the lack of opportunity at Chelsea, he has moved to the German club Hamburg SV on a season-long loan. Reports suggest that he is very happy with his situation there, with him exposed to regular first-team football, which means he could decide to stay in Hamburg. If he does so, the Blues will lose one of their most talented youngsters for a pittance. Already it seems as though the deal could materialize at any time.
5. MIROSLAV STOCH
Ever since he could walk, he had a football at his feet. It comes as no surprise the he was scouted by Europe’s biggest names at the tender age of 15. He eventually joined Chelsea, where he played initially for the reserves. Despite playing as a offensive winger, he managed a credible 12 goals in his debut season. Hoping to gain first-team experience, he was loaned out to FC Twente, where his noteworthy displays helped Twente win their first Eredivisie. After coming back to Stamford Bridge, Stoch was another entrant in a long line of young strikers who were waiting for a chance to prove themselves. Fenerbahce did not waste any time and snapped him for €5.5 million. The result : a record 18th Turkish Super Lig title, with 13 goals. I only hope this guy comes back to Chelsea. A wonderful replacement for the ageing Drogba.
Thus, as you can see, Chelsea has not been a good breeding-ground for youngsters lately. Those players who have moved on to other clubs have realized their true potential and have achieved success. The latest batch of talents, which include Josh McEachran, Romelu Lukaku (signed for 18 million, currently playing in the reserves), Ryan Bertrand etc have not been given much playing time. This needs to be rectified if they have to achieve success across all fronts. It would not only save a lot of transfer money, it would also herald a bright future.