Chelsea’s loan obsession is failing their young players

Chelsea’s loan obsession is failing their young players

On Saturday, Fankaty Dabo completed a loan move to Vitesse Arnhem from Chelsea. The next day it emerged that Tiemoue Bakayoko is set to sign for the Blues from Monaco.

Superficially, the two transfers only have one thing in common – the Stamford Bridge club.

The two players play in different positions and, despite Dabo being just 10 months younger than Bakayoko, are considered by Chelsea at least to be at vastly different stages of their careers.

Yet these two lonely news stories identify a trend that has developed in west London over the past decade. A trend which refuses to be bucked. A trend which ought to scare off top talent from wearing a blue shirt.

Bakayoko will cost Roman Abramovich around £32million – hardly chump change, even for the Russian oil baron. Dabo, by contrast, has cost nothing more than the money spent on his footballing education in the youth team at the Bridge.

Yet no real value is placed on money, it seems. For all the hype given to their much-vaunted academy system, Chelsea’s recruitment methods continue to be reactive. Their production line continues to be used to supplement their spending, not the other way around.

Last season 35 players were loaned out to clubs across Europe. There were those whose initial signings appeared somewhat unnecessary – Michael Hector, Baba Rahman and Matt Miazga to name just three – but there were many, many more who enrolled at the Bridge from a young age, received the hundreds upon thousands of hours of coaching paid for by Abramovich’s billions and still do not get to see the light of day as a Chelsea first-team player.

It must test the patience of these young men, for whom the tag ‘inexperienced’ can only be applied very, very loosely.

Nathaniel Chalobah, for instance, is now a seasoned England age-group international and a vital cog in the Young Lions side battling for Euro 2017 glory in Poland. But in Chelsea terms his career is embryonic to the point of non-existent.

Last season he made a single appearance for the Blues – in a dead rubber against Watford when the title was already won. While he is pulling strings in England’s midfield this summer, his club are busy spending another £30million-plus on another man to sit in front of him in the queue.

Just like they did 12 months ago with the signing of N’Golo Kante. And, undoubtedly, just like they will in 12 months’ time with whichever holding midfielder is the flavour of the month in Europe.

Chalobah isn’t the only one, of course. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been spoken about in glowing terms for much of the past three years but his appearances have been sporadic.

Tammy Abraham’s goals record in the Championship with Bristol City would at least get him a look-in on pre-season training with the first team at most clubs nationwide. Instead, he’s immediately being earmarked for another year out on loan at either Brighton or Newcastle.

So often we hear Chelsea have the makings of a world-class defender in Andreas Christiansen but the Dane has spent so long at Borussia Monchengladbach that it’s easy to forget which club he actually belongs to.

For all their bravado and bluster about the intricacies of their loan system, and the good it does for their young players and the good it does the clubs who get their talents for short periods of time, there still seems to be a distinct lack of career pathway at Chelsea.

Thibaut Courtois served his apprenticeship to Petr Cech several thousand miles away at Atletico Madrid before assuming number one status with the Blues but, otherwise, how many players has the ever-revolving loan cycle benefited?

Very few.

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