Chelsea transfer splurge risks 'destroying' Academy - Pulis
Written by Simon Austin — February 1, 2023
TONY PULIS says Chelsea’s huge transfer spend under new owner Todd Boehly is at risk of “destroying” their Academy, which he describes as “probably the strongest in England.”
The Blues signed Argentine midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica for a British-record fee of £107m on transfer deadline day, taking their total outlay since Boehly’a May 2022 takeover to more than £550m on 16 players (the full list is below).
Former Stoke City and West Brom boss Pulis said the strategy “makes no sense” to him. Chelsea topped TGG’s 2021/22 Academy Productivity Rankings and have progressed several homegrown players to their first team in recent seasons, including England internationals Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher.
“Chelsea over the last 10 years have had probably the strongest Academy in England,” Pulis told Sky Sports. "You look at the players who have been there from maybe 10, 11, 12 years of age and then they get to a stage where they’re close, have performed really well in all their youth teams, been loaned out, and then all of a sudden a new Chairman comes in and spends an absolute fortune on bringing younger players from abroad.
“That must be really destroying for those young players - and the Academy itself. If these kids are not going to be brought through and played in the team, you half think why are they spending that money?
“It makes no sense to me to have an Academy system where the kids are not getting the opportunity to play at that level.”
When Chelsea played Newcastle United in the last game before the World Cup break (a 1-0 defeat on Saturday November 12th) they fielded six Academy graduates - Armando Broja, Gallagher, Mount, Lewis Hall, Trevoh Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Eight players have subsequently been signed from foreign clubs during the January window, with a focus on young players such as Fernandez, Mykhailo Mudryk (both 22) and Noni Madueke (20).
Pulis added: “When Graham (Potter) came in there initially, I actually thought that was the plan - I thought the older players would be pushed to one side and then the youngsters would come in and be given the chance to grow.
“With that, Graham had a bad run of results, there was a lot of pressure on him from supporters - which was going to happen - and all of a sudden now they’ve spun it round and are spending absolute fortunes on what they would see as ready-made players to win games.
“So, it’s been a bit confusing for me as a manager, as someone would like to have a plan over a period of time of where they’re going. I just can’t make it out to be honest.”
"It makes no sense having an academy system where the kids aren't getting a chance to play at that level!" ????— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 31, 2023
Tony Pulis on Chelsea's recent transfer business ???? pic.twitter.com/BAR0k1Ukqv
Pulis said that “nearly a billion pounds” had been spent “setting up and running Academies over the past 10 years”, but the figure is actually £1.94bn, according to the Premier League itself.
Last year Chelsea officially launched their ‘Vision 2030’ for the Academy, which they have been working on since 2019, when Frank Lampard was manager.
I was invited to their Cobham Academy in November to see a presentation about the project, as well as a celebration of 10 years of the Elite Player Performance Plan, and Neil Bath, the club’s long-standing Director of Youth, told me that the new owners remained fully behind the plan.
“Yes 100%, I really do (believe that),” Bath said. “It’s always a team effort, everybody’s in it. Frank put them in and gave them the opportunity. Subsequently Thomas (Tuchel) has kept going, Graham has kept going.
“They (the new owners) have gone on that fact that we will continue that opportunity and I am very confident they are excited about supporting and taking this vision forward. It will get their full support.”
Chelsea’s Vision 2030 has five main targets for their youth programme:
- for 15% of their Premier League minutes to be from Academy players
- for 25% of their first-team squad to be from the Academy
- to have above national average GCSE and A Level results
- to have more Academy players in the professional game than from any other Academy
- to win more national and international competitions than other Academies
CHELSEA SIGNINGS UNDER TODD BOEHLY
- Mykhailo Mudryk (Shakhtar Donetsk)
- Wesley Fofana (Leicester)
- Marc Cucurella (Brighton)
- Raheem Sterling (Man City)
- Benoit Badiashile (Monaco)
- Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
- Noni Madueke (PSV) 20
- Malo Gusto (Lyon)
- Carney Chukwuemeka (Aston Villa)
- Andrey Santos (Vasco da Gama)
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Barcelona)
- Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire)
- David Datro Fofana (Molde)
- Denis Zakaria (Juventus, loan)
- Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid, loan)
- Enzo Fernandez (Benfica)