For all Chelsea’s recent triumphs and seemingly prudent player acquisitions, there is still something that grates about the manner in which they go about their business. No degree of footballing success can educate Roman Abramovich in the matters of treating a great game and its players with the right respect, and this can be seen in his latest splurging on Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar. Other clubs might have recognised that they were buying players for the future, whose redoubtable talent would need patience and careful management to be unlocked. Yet it is clear by the sums spent on players labelled “starlets”, that Abramovich’s cherry-picking of them has been motivated by the same attitude that saw him spend £50 million for Fernando Torres and expect him to start scoring straightaway. These are players who command the club’s interest for as long as they perceived to be “stars” of the game, and whose lack of a tailored support system once they arrive often means their careers shrivel and falter. It was bad enough for Torres, but to expect three young players – two still in their teens – to shoulder a Premier League title bid next season is an unfair allocation of responsibility that reveals Abramovich’s ongoing failure to understand that signing a chequebook is only the beginning of a club’s investment in a player.
If Oscar, Marin and Hazard thought they had hit the bull’s-eye by signing with a club that reconciled a player’s two great aims of being financially secure and playing at a successful team where they could grow as footballers, they should have taken a second look at the troubles of Romelu Lukaku and Gael Kakuta. Lukaku has spoken openly of the lack of joy and involvement he felt at Chelsea’s double success last season, in which he played a minimal role. It is understandable that his playing time would have been limited by the ceaseless influence of Didier Drogba, but the way his discontent grew away from the pitch suggested that Chelsea have not backed up the money they spend on the best young talent around by investing in a suitable support system and giving them a clear sense of progression and development. Lukaku has now gone on loan at West Brom – something that Gael Kakuta has already done on three separate occasions during his time at the club. Once hailed as the “future of Chelsea”, this young talent is now being discussed in the corridors of power at the club only in the context of including him as part of an exchange deal for the latest young player to catch their fancy – Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta of Marseille. If Kakuta does leave, it will conclude five ruinous years that have seen his career come to a shuddering halt and that illustrate the power Chelsea have to sully even the brightest talents with their myopic approach to team-building.