Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic (left) and Derby County’s Mason Mount battle for the ball during the Carabao Cup, Fourth Round match at Stamford Bridge, London. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images
FIFA upheld Chelsea’s one year transfer ban earlier this week and while the west London side will appeal that decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it is looking more and more likely that they could be unable to sign any new players this summer.
Chelsea are being punished for allegedly breaching regulations regarding the transfer and registration of under-18s, but many young players never break through to Chelsea’s first team. The average age at which Chelsea recruited the players that have appeared for the club in league games this season is 25.81 years according to CIES Football Observatory. That’s among the oldest 20 teams in Europe’s five big leagues, and far older than rivals Manchester United (23.42 years), Tottenham Hotspur (23.84 years) and Manchester City (23.89 years).
This matches Chelsea’s general approach to recruitment, which often involves signing (or loaning in the case of Higuain and Kovacic) the finished product, with only Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to make the breakthrough from Chelsea’s youth sides into their first team in recent years.
Such a short-term approach makes Chelsea more susceptible than their rivals to a transfer ban. Luckily for Chelsea, they have a secret weapon to help them survive the ban on signings: their loan army.
Chelsea have over thirty players out on loan, from the Premier League to non-league, and from Spain to Turkey. These include young players getting experience, and some not-so-young ones like Todd Kane who have been loaned out again and again. Kane’s spell at Hull this season was his eighth of his career, and at 25, he is unlikely to ever play for Chelsea.
Other players on loan include some senior players like Victor Moses and Tiemoue Bakayoko who were loaned out to rediscover their form or because they didn’t fit in with manager Mauricio Sarri’s plans.
Christian Pulisic is technically on the loan list but the U.S. international will be joining them properly from Borussia Dortmund this summer. Alvaro Morata, who has scored six goals in twelve starts since moving to Atletico Madrid in the winter, may end up staying at the Spanish club according to recent reports. Chelsea could also consider bringing back Kurt Zouma, who has played almost every game for Everton this season, and has helped the Toffees keep clean sheets against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal in his last eight games.
Manager Mauricio Sarri says that the ban could also give him a chance to use a few of the young players who spent this season out on loan, saying “There are two or three players who have been out on loan this season who are interesting”.
Tammy Abraham’s promise has earned the 21-year old two England caps already. He played in the Premier League with Swansea City in the 2017/18 season, and has been lighting up the Championship with Aston Villa this season. He is joint-second top scorer in the Championship this season with 25 goals, and has the best goal-per-game ratio of the top four strikers in the league. A lot of those goals were classic poacher’s goals though, with ten scored from within the six yard box and five more coming from penalty kicks. Aston Villa will be hoping that he can add a few more to his tally in their playoff matches against West Bromwich Albion to help the Villains return to the Premier League.
Derby County boss Frank Lampard’s Chelsea connections make it no surprise that he managed to bring two young Chelsea prospects to Pride Park this season. 20-year-old midfielder Mason Mount was the second highest rated Derby player this season according to whoscored.com (Liverpool loanee Harry Wilson was top). Mount has ten goals and six assists this season as he showed he could bring to the Championship the impressive form that he showed in the Eredivisie with Vitesse the previous season. There are reports that he will be joining Chelsea on their pre-season tour this summer, which will give him a chance to show Mauricio Sarri just how good he is. Canadian-born defender Fikayo Tomori, who once scored an own goal from the halfway line for England in the 2017 Under-20 World Cup, has also impressed for Derby, who face Leeds United in the Championship playoffs.
After a solid season with Hull City in 2017/18, Nigerian international Ola Aina has spent this season on loan at Torino in Serie A. Able to play on both flanks; Aina’s versatility could give Chelsea a bit of cover if he is recalled in the summer, although there are reports that Torino are willing to splash the cash to make his transfer permanent.
19-year-old Reece James, who had an impressive season for Wigan Athletic, and was ranked the 28th best player in the whole of the Championship by whoscored.com last season, could also be brought back to Stamford Bridge if they need more cover at right back. James likes to get forward and is a great dribbler on the ball. Even if Chelsea don’t recall him, he is likely to see interest from other Premier League sides.
Chelsea will fight their transfer ban to the last, and have likely made plans on who to sign should it be lifted or postponed. But while being unable to sign new players may be a hindrance for Chelsea, it is also an opportunity for the club to actually give their youngsters a chance, so that in five years’ time, their careers don’t resemble that of Todd Kane.