Leeds plan to copy Chelsea recruitment model - and how it makes perfect sense
By Richard Parks
Even Chelsea fans have lost count of the number of academy sensations in recent years who have been spoken of as the next John Terry but never actually make the grade at the club.
To name just a few, Josh McEachran, Dominic Solanke, Gael Kakuta, Izzy Brown and Nathan Ake have ripped it up at youth team level but moved on to pastures new with very few senior appearances to their name.
It is has antagonised Chelsea supporters desperate for an academy product to follow the path of Terry from rising star to established one, all while wearing the blue jersey.
But it has not been money down the drain. Far from it. Many have yielded considerable profits for the club, with Ake signing for Bournemouth last summer for an eye-watering £20million after just 17 Chelsea appearances.
Others have had highly productive loan spells at other clubs, who have footed most of their wages, while developing before being sold on a high mark-up.
As a business model, it is sensible and revolutionary, even though it is at odds with Chelsea’s mission statement of investing in youth to create a first-team gold mine.
There is certainly more than a suggestion that Leeds have Chelsea-style plans to plough money into sourcing hidden gems before polishing them either at their own academy or on loan at other clubs.
It could be a profitable way of developing first teamers as well as providing an alternative revenue stream.
Yorkshire Evening Post correspondent Phil Hay, writing in a column for the paper analysing United’s January window activity, highlighted the major recruitment drive at academy level since Andrea Radrizzani took sole control last May as indicative of a plan that hints at more than just reinforcing the youth ranks.
“To the naked eye, Leeds are either visualising a first-team gold mine for the future, following Chelsea’s path in creating an alternative revenue stream or both,” Hay explained. “One way or another, in the field of academy recruitment, the club have begun a long game. Youth development has been part of the fabric at Leeds for years and investment in it was undeniably overdue, in the eyes of anyone who worked at Thorp Arch.”
The Elland Road club signed six permanent additions to Carlos Corberan’s Under-23 squad in the winter window, adding the deadline day capture of Jordan Stevens to the previous signings of striker duo Oliver Sarkic and Sam Dalby, centre-back pair Aapo Halme and Pascal Struijk, as well as goalkeeper Kamal Miazek.
Leeds fans were baffled at such investment in youngsters while there are gaping holes in a senior side deprived of two handfuls of players by injuries and suspension.
But it could make perfect business sense in the medium and long term future.
Chelsea have showed how it can work so well.
In other Leeds United transfer news, it can be revealed that a centre-forward who has player for the team this season has had his contract terminated.