The Premier League is probably the most exciting proposition in the world for an up-and-coming foreign star. Over the last few decades, we’ve seen the rise of names such as Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez among many others. They all arrived with a good reputation, bags of talent, strong determination and left as superstars.
There is, however, one big factor that made them what they are: they were all given the time and space to adjust in the league without pressure and were provided ample game-time. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked.
One look at the number of players that Chelsea have out on loan this season tells the story. They have 38 players out on loan. Yes, 38 – you read that right. This is twice the number of players some League Two clubs have on their books. History has shown us that most of these players, in all likelihood, will not be a part of the first team squad when they return from loan.
These players were bought with the intention of either selling them for a profit at a later point, or as a means of fending away interest from rival clubs. In short, they were bought with a business perspective in mind ahead of a sporting one.
One cannot blame Chelsea for doing so. After all, professional football at the highest level is a dog-eat-dog world and it is necessary to be selfish to be extremely successful over a sustained period.
What is wrong, however, is the impact that it has on the career of the up-and-coming star. It is extremely unhealthy for a young footballer to switch clubs every season. It doesn’t give him the stability to develop and he is always under greater pressure to perform, particularly in so-called smaller teams.
Take the career of Andros Townsend, as an example. He first became part of the Tottenham first team squad at the age of 18. What followed then was a series of 9 loan spells at various Championship clubs over a period of 4 years. This meant that Andros had already played for 10 clubs by the time he had turned 22, a figure that most players don’t reach even by the end of their careers!
Granted, Townsend is still an established Premier League player and could start for half the teams in the league. However, the fact remains that had he been given the chance to develop himself as a player at his parent club, he would have probably developed himself better. This is not just a hypothesis, but is in fact, proven to be true.
Let’s take Raheem Sterling as an example. He broke into the Liverpool first team and made his debut at the age of 17. The following season, he made 36 appearances, scoring two goals. Understandably, for a young player, he was inconsistent and had his highs and lows. The most important thing was that he was given chance after chance to prove himself. As a result, he became one of the most important players in the team. Two seasons later, he fetched his club £50 million after completing a move to Manchester City.
There is a softer aspect of staying at the parent club that is often overlooked: working with your role models. Older and more experienced stars often rub off on young players and give them valuable advice. One needs look no further than, for example, the impact Pep Guardiola, the player, had on Xavi.
I understand that football is about winning now, and that patience is highly dreaded in the football world. However, it is imperative to let young players develop at their own pace without playing around with their careers too much. As history has shown us, both, the club and the player gain far more by following such an approach.