In terms of giving opportunities to young and unproven players, current Chelsea manager José Mourinho falls short of what many fans would hope to see. Since being given an almost blank cheque in 2004 upon arriving at Chelsea, Mourinho has splurged cash at every football club he has managed on a variety of talents in favour of entrusting duties to young players making their way through the youth systems at said clubs. However, for what he falls short on in using homegrown and cheaper youth players, he makes up for in success, invariably.
Despite the almost guaranteed success Mourinho brings, there has been a rising level of discontent amongst much of the Stamford Bridge faithful in regards to his avoidance of using the evidently talented throngs of young and homegrown players that litter the Chelsea youth teams. Some of the most sought after and blessed young talent in football at the moment are honing their game at Chelsea’s state of the art Cobham complex, yet Mourinho has only committed to giving a handful of them a sliver of an appearance for the first team.
One lucky player who has been given an opportunity however is 19-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Since joining Chelsea at the tender age of eight, Loftus-Cheek has risen through the youth setup and been part of the highly successful Under-21 team that won the cup double in 2014.
Since impressing for the U21s, Mourinho clearly took a shine to the lad from Lewisham and included him in first team training sessions and as part of Champions League squads for much of the 2014-15 season. Despite this Loftus-Cheek still found first team minutes hard to come by and will be hoping that next season he is given more opportunities.
Although many Chelsea fans will be hoping that more youth players will be included in the first team picture next season, it is unlikely. Mourinho has always been a pragmatist and the way he approaches his teams has always been the same. Despite the huge appeal behind the idea of using youth team players in favour of big-money foreign signings, in practice the latter works much more effectively on a short-term basis.
In Mourinho’s eyes the risks that come along with entrusting inexperienced youngsters far outweigh the risks of using more experienced players that he’s more familiar with. For example, if Mourinho were to bring the likes of Dominic Solanke and Isaiah Brown (Two promising young strikers at Chelsea) into the first team picture he would need to bench players like Costa, Rémy and Falcao in order to do so. If he were to hypothetically do this the blame of failure would fall squarely on his shoulders with the experienced and proven options (Costa, Rémy, Falcao) being available yet not used. However, if Mourinho were to simply not take the risk, the blame for failure could be shared between him and the more experienced players, who would have not stepped up.
In an ideal world for many Chelsea fans, Mourinho would simply be able to use the youth team players at will and not come under attack from the repercussions of a hypothetical failure with them, but sadly that is simply not possible. Mourinho’s job is reliant on success, his reputation is reliant on success and because of this he builds his teams to be successful for the time that he is there.
Mourinho has never been at a club for longer than three and a half seasons and it remains to be seen whether he will break his record in his current stint in charge at Stamford Bridge. Because of his tendency to remain at clubs on a short-term basis, Mourinho prefers to build teams and manage teams that are almost guaranteed to be successful under him and he’s never faced the challenge of having to build a team with a long-term project in mind.
Despite all the doom and gloom I may seem to be showering upon Chelsea fans, there is a glimmer of hope. Mourinho has previously said on multiple occasions, since resigning for Chelsea, that he would like to stay for an extended period of time.
“I would [like to stay], say, 12 years”
On top of this, Mourinho has previously stated that if many of the talented young players available to him do not make it as Chelsea and England players, then he will have failed.
“They will be Chelsea players. And when they become Chelsea players, they will become England players, almost for sure.”
Ultimately football is a results business and the top dog in England at the moment is none other than José Mourinho, and although it would be nice for Mourinho to bring youth team players into the fold, it is far too risky in the current Premier League climate to rush doing so. There’s a reason Mourinho has been so successful in his career and it’s not down to idealism.