With only five games to go until the end of the season Chelsea look all set to lift the Premier League trophy for the third time under Jose Mourinho. It is the culmination of hard graft spanning two seasons.
After finishing third in the 2013/2014 season, Chelsea went back to the drawing board and tweaked a few things in the blue-print of their playing unit. Perhaps ‘drastic changes' would be a more appropriate term.
In January 2014, vividly aware of an aging John Terry and the deficiencies of David Luiz, Mourinho bought Kurt Zouma from Saint-Etienne for around £12m and loaned him back to the same club. In June 2014 Luiz was sold to PSG for £50m, a world-record transfer fee for a defender.
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The magnitude of this transfer only served to demonstrate the ruthless streak of Mourinho as a manager. Brendan Rodgers is a romantic at heart. The fact that he bought Balotelli, a reject at both Manchester city and AC Milan, with the hope of restoring the Italian to his former glory dispels any doubts. Raheem Sterling continues to manifest the magic touch of Rodgers’ gifted hands.
Arsene Wenger, the professor, is patient and methodical; choosing to keep faith in his squad even when with embarrassing lack of cohesion it fails, time and again, to rise to the occasion, crumbling in the hour of need.
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Chelsea take the more direct but expensive route. They sign the finished article. Stars that have been made elsewhere and thrust into the transfer market ready for the picking by Europe’s elite clubs. They establish weaknesses in the squad and then identify the right personnel to patch those cracks and if necessary displace the men that had occupied the slots before.
Diego Costa, Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic, Andre Schurrle, Oscar, Juan Mata, Mohamed Salah, Marko Marin, Kevin de Bruyne,Willian and Juan Cuadrado all came in.
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In their wake; Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and a host of other unwanted players such as Florent Malouda, Jose Bosingwa, Paulo Ferreira, Yossi Benayoun, Salamon Kalou and Michael Essien had to give way.
Such was the resolve to get rid of players deemed surplus to requirements that Drogba, Essien, Lampard, Kalou and Bosingwa - all top players - were allowed to leave on a free. The status of Lampard - a living club legend - and Drogba - a faithful disciple for Chelsea - could not afford either of them even a season more.
The London side has demonstrated its determination and ruthlessness of to do whatever is in its power to put up a unit that can challenge for silverware. Mourinho’s character only personifies that attribute. He is a man that demands total commitment and grasp of his coaching methods. Any player that is unable or unwilling to adapt is promptly replaced.
In his stewardship Marin, Mata, Schurrle, Salah, Lampard, Luiz, Oriol Romeu and De Bruyne all left. Marin, Salah and Romeu on loan and none at a loss.
De Bruyne was sold to Wolfsburg for a fee of £18m while Mata and Schurrle were sold to Manchester United and Wolfsburg. A total profit of around £53.6m was realised from the sales, including that of Luiz.
This money replenished the coffers after the acquisition of Costa, Fabregas and Salah. The accounts balanced, Chelsea stayed within UEFA’s Financial Fair Play cap.
At Stamford Bridge the rough diamonds are only fit for the reserve team. They are also constantly loaned out to top clubs in the hope that the rough edges would be polished and the loanees would later return to London as stars in their own right.
Thibaut Courtois is a very good example. Signed as a 16-year-old from Genk he was at Atletico Madrid for three consecutive seasons on loan. He rose quickly to become the first choice between the sticks.
De Bruyne also went down the well-trodden path at Chelsea . In his stay he was loaned out to Genk and Werder Bremen before eventually being sold to Wolfsburg. All these players were young lads who in the event they failed to make the cut, would be sold at a neat profit.
Ryan Bertrand and Romelu Lukaku were both sold to Southampton and Everton for an
estimated £10 million and £28million respectively. It is very likely Victor Moses and Gael Kakuta, another journey-man, are next in line.
But this is not to say Chelsea will not give chances to young players. The Blues this week beat Manchester City to retain the 2015 FA Youth Cup, the win coming on the back of a UEFA Youth League success with a 3-2 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.
History is being rewritten at Chelsea. Mourinho has hinted that he will give first team chances to Dominic Solanke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek come next season while Nathan Ake has been named on the bench several times. This will be a shift from eras past when in 15 years John Terry is the only player to have transitioned from the youth squad to establish himself as a first team regular.
The Blues have discovered the ingredients to win the league: A wealthy owner. A sound
club philosophy. A manager who understands the philosophy. A perspicacious transfer policy and a solid youth set-up.
Chelsea fans: do you want to see more academy products in the first-team? Let us know below!