Mourinho has proven time and time again he doesn’t care about youth players.
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When Jose Mourinho proudly declared in his pre-Sporting Lisbon Champions League press conference that he was happy to give kids a chance; you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t help but laugh.
The Chelsea boss, with no hint that he was pulling our leg, proceeded to parade Ruben Loftus-Cheek in front of the assembled press, waxing lyrical about how the West London club now had the right quality of youth player, that he was now able to integrate them into his squad.
“If you don’t bring kids through the academy, the best thing is to close the academy,” said Mourinho. Tomorrow, he declared, would be “academy day”.
Clock forward 24 hours and all we could see as an example of what the Blues’ training ground at Cobham had to offer was Loftus’ cheeks sat on the bench. In the end, despite the game being the deadest of dead rubbers, the 18 year old was the only youth outfield player selected for the squad, with other promising youngsters relegated to the UEFA Youth League match earlier that day.
After all the pomp and ceremony, Mourinho’s “academy day” came down to just one substitute appearance and eight minutes of football.
Yet this should hardly be surprising, we know Mourinho’s MO. Come to a club, spend an exorbitant amount of money on players to build a team in his image, win a few trophies, leave after two or three seasons. Rinse and repeat.
Mourinho simply doesn’t care about youth players or academies because it doesn’t benefit him in any way to try and use them. A master tactician and talented coach he may be, but Mourinho’s biggest and most consistent quality has always been self-interest.
If his ultimate objective is to win trophies why would he attempt to break youth prospects into the first team and risk losing a match because of inexperience when he can just select a battle hardened, experienced, brute of a player who he knows will perform?
The history of the Portuguese coach speaks for itself. When discussing Chelsea’s current youth team prospects before the Sporting game Mourinho said: “‘I can for example compare my first spell here and now, and now the quality of the young players is better. Clearly better.” Yet he said almost something exactly similar during his first spell in West London.
After his side had pushed aside Arsenal’s kids in the 2007 League Cup final, the Special One declared: “We have some young boys with quality and we believe maybe they can do it in the future,” sounds familiar.
At Real Madrid he was renowned for criticising the youth set-up, saying the quality of players produced by Castilla, Real’s B team, was simply not good enough. Perhaps what sums it up best is Mourinho elected bringing in Michael Essien on loan and choosing to play the Ghanaian defensive midfielder at left back during an injury crisis instead of youth prospect Nacho Fernandez.
The reality is that Mourinho doesn’t care about youth football, never has and never will.
His objective is to win and to win, in his mind, you need a team of the best players in the world – which may go some to explaining why, according to ESPN, in his time since first racking up at Chelsea, Mourinho managed teams have bought over £566.1 million worth of players with an eye-watering net-spend of £310.6m.
Mourinho buys big because he wants talent that is already proven, already has a name and he knows what it can do. He doesn’t have time to determine whether the next hot-shot from the youth ranks is good enough for his team, or attempt to develop a side purely on the training field.
Chelsea fans may question why they should care about this but there’s a reason John Terry is the last youth product to graduate from Cobham Academy. As money continues to escalate in football to ridiculous levels, so will the transfer spend of clubs who wish to win and succeed as quickly as possible. Whilst ultimately it may result in a club like Chelsea and a manager like Mourinho reaping the rewards with multiple trophies and successes at what cost does it come?
For up and coming youngsters like Loftus-Cheek it will be monumental. That’s why Mourinho’s talk of a new wave of youth stars bucking the recent trend at Chelsea rings so hollow, because we all know how this story will eventually go. Mourinho will continue to spend on external stars, the Blues will continue to win, and the fans will continue to cheer.
All the while, the proudly proclaimed “made in Chelsea” academy products will gain the sporadic appearance here, the short loan move there whilst continually being under picked, becoming under developed and ultimately having to flee from Stamford Bridge to try resurrect their fledgling career.