Chelsea's new sporting director Frank Arnesen yesterday launched his first defence of his woeful record at producing young players for the club's academy.
The Dane, who was promoted by Roman Abramovich last month, said that despite four years of extraordinary investment in young players, he was not under pressure to produce a player capable of making the first team until next year.
Despite the departure of three managers since Arnesen's arrival in 2005, the man who was brought from Tottenham at great expense has kept the trust of Abramovich. He presided over one of the most spectacular spending sprees in the history of youth football, signing unproven teenage players from Europe and South America including the £5m acquisition of Leeds United's English pair Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo – neither of whom came close to making the grade.
Nevertheless, Arnesen claimed in an interview with the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende that despite the huge sums spent on buying in young players – and the £5m a year that it costs to run Chelsea's lavish academy at Cobham – the club did not expect any returns on their investment until 2010.
Asked why he had failed to produce two players a year for the Chelsea senior squad, Arnesen claimed that was "a misunderstanding" and he had never been set that target. He said: "It was never a part of my contract with Chelsea. It is clearly laid out in our long time planning for 2004 to 2014 – after which we aim to be self financed – that from 2010 and onwards our top priority is to introduce one player [per year] into the Premiership squad. But that is from 2010.
"It was never the objective that I should be delivering two talents for the best team from 2007 on a yearly basis. I don't know how that misunderstanding has surfaced. You don't create talents at the assembly line. Patience is a virtue. In a top club like Chelsea you do not waltz into the team at the age of 18-19 years.
"It is the same at Manchester United and Liverpool. Only a select few make it into the first team at that age unless they are super gifted like Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo or Bojan Krkic. We put a lot of effort into explaining this to our youngsters. We have four players coming out of our youth programme in the squad that made the pre-season trip to USA. We have some very good prospects aged 17-18 years. I am satisfied."
In the original squad named for the tour of America only Franco Di Santo, Scott Sinclair, Sam Hutchinson and Michael Mancienne could be described as coming through Chelsea's youth programme. The latter three all pre-date Arnesen at the club while Di Santo, an Argentine under-20 international who cost around £2m, has failed to break into the Chelsea team and has been a target for Blackburn Rovers.
Last year, Arnesen admitted that the global recession had forced Abramovich to cut back on the huge network of scouts that Chelsea employed all over the world. His promotion from head of youth development and chief scout to sporting director has placed a question over chief executive Peter Kenyon's role. Arnesen said: "My role won't be as much hands on in the youth department. The board wants me closer to the Premier League squad. I will be providing back-up for [Carlo] Ancelotti."
The Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo is still expected to sign for Chelsea in exchange for Claudio Pizarro and a fee of around £6m, as reported in The Independent on Saturday.Reuse content