Several years ago, Chelsea and Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem entered into a co-operation agreement, which up to this point, has seen the Dutch club acquire several Chelsea young players on loan. On Thursday, the first Vitesse player to go to Chelsea as a result of the co-operation between both clubs took place.
20-year-old midfielder Marco van Ginkel was sold to Chelsea from Vitesse for a transfer fee reported to be in the region of £8 million. While the signing signals the addition of a talented young player who some have compared to a young Frank Lampard given his playing style, for me, the signing of van Grinkel more than anything makes me ask a lot of questions as a result of the signing.
For starters, none of my questions are related to the abilities and talents of van Grinkel. As previously mentioned, he is a talented young player who caught the eye of many recently as he played for the Netherlands at the UEFA U-21 Tournament held in Israel last month. That said, he will be joining a Chelsea team with several players around his age at the same position.
The signing of van Grinkel means that Chelsea will now have four twenty-something holding midfielder types who will vie for a spot on the first team for the 2013-14 season. Along with van Grinkel, Chelsea also has Nathan Ake, Josh McEachran, and Nathaniel Chalobah who will be vying for a spot much less for playing time.
In addition to the four youngsters, Chelsea also have the aforementioned Frank Lampard, a returning Michael Essien, and Ramires who all play in the same area as the four youngsters. This is not including David Luiz whom if not sold, could be employed as a defensive midfielder by Jose Mourinho, much the same way he did with Pepe when he coached Real Madrid.
All told, you have about 7-8 players vying to play in two positions in the midfield. Clearly some of them will not get any playing time or very little as a result of the number of players. Furthermore, Jose Mourinho has not always been so willing to play young players often, instead preferring to play them sparingly.
Best example of this was Raphael Varane whom in his first season at Real Madrid, rarely played and really didn’t get any real playing time until almost halfway into the 2012-13 season. With that in mind, it is hard for me to see how a player like van Grinkel, even if he impresses in training, is going to get the playing time necessary to grow and develop at this stage of his career.
Unless van Grinkel gets significant playing time, it’s hard for me to think how Chelsea can justify having bought the player. As for Vitesse, if van Grinkel doesn’t play on a regular basis, this would then force him to have to question whether or not it’s in their interest to continue the co-operation arrangement with Chelsea if in the end, players don’t end up seeing playing time. At least, I would think that’s the case.
All this brings me to my final question, what is the goal of the academies for Premier League teams like Chelsea if their own youth-academy products, who are ready for a chance to play and contribute, can’t get games and or at the least be placed on the first team squad? A player like Josh McEachran, who saw playing time under Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo during the 2011-12 season, is now just tossed aside and forgotten about?
This once again makes me wonder how serious Chelsea are about their academy development if they still bring in a player who’s similar in age and plays the same position as three young English kids looking for a chance to break into the first team squad. And then, these young English players are wasted away because they are sent to play on loan at League 1 and 2 teams, thus stunting their growth as professional players.