Real-life Football Manager? How Chelsea’s bold youth strategy could thrive or fail
Assessing the potential and pitfalls of the club's stockpiling scheme.
Chelsea are doing something that will be familiar to most Football Manager players: get the best scouts, scour the world, sign the wonderkids, farm them out, and profit later. But can that work in the real world, with real people?
Stephen Ganavas sums everything up and gives us an informed answer.
We’ve never seen anything in the transfer market quite like Chelsea’s recent strategy. Teams have been aggressive in trying to sign high-quality youth players before, but never to this degree.
Big fees, long contracts - the London club will do anything to woo those they have deemed the next generation. It’s a strategy those of us who love to play Football Manager will attest to — sign the best scouts, scour the world for the highest potential youngsters, then farm them until they are ready for the first team or to turn a profit.
I speak from experience. My Champions League-winning St. Pauli squad that featured Kylian Mbappe, Yusuf Demir and Lorenzo Lucca in Football Manager 2022 also boasted reserves stacked with dozens of high-quality Under-21s from all over the planet — many farmed on loan to my compliant feeder club Duisburg and other corners of Europe.
Back on planet Earth, unfortunately (or fortunately), such a rudimentary approach eventually butts up against the realities of actual human existence. Chelsea are not dealing in pixels, but in human beings - and a lot of them.
The model used to be buy low, sell how. Chelsea are trying to turn it into buy high, sell higher. Here are the signings so far (we’ll just use Transfermarkt figures for now, but bear in mind that they often exclude potential add-ons and obviously sell-on clauses):
Does this hail-mary approach mean Chelsea are doomed? Not necessarily. Their system is novel but there are lessons to be learned from projects that have come before, some of which could help Chelsea’s effort function more effectively, even in its infancy.
And with RC Strasbourg becoming the first satellite club of ‘BlueCo’, Todd Boehly and friends are building a network they likely see as development houses for their array of starlets.
The plan has a logical shape to it. But Chelsea aren’t dealing with ones and zeros - playing FM in real life is a risky business.
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