Departed Chelsea youth remain key to sustained future success

ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 09: Tammy Abraham of AS Roma celebrates after scoring opening goal during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Juventus at Stadio Olimpico on January 9, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 09: Tammy Abraham of AS Roma celebrates after scoring opening goal during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Juventus at Stadio Olimpico on January 9, 2022 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images) /

“I love it when a plan comes together,” -John ‘Hannibal’ Smith, The A-Team. We have arrived at what may be the most calamitous time in Chelsea history. At every turn, with every passing minute, new reports become published citing the inability of the club to manage day-to-day expenses. The rhetoric surrounding the future of the Blues is bleak and, frankly, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to question if the club will continue to exist beyond this year.

For most, this is a terrifying reality. Chelsea has experienced one helluva year (and some change). The Blues fired club legend Frank Lampard and hired Thomas Tuchel before emerging as European and World Champions. Now, they are experiencing the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich by the United Kingdom government. While we can easily stew in the negative stories around the future of Chelsea, I would like to instead highlight an act of unintentional brilliance that might preserve the future of the club regardless of its financial limitations.

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Departed Chelsea youth could be key to the Blues’ long-term, sustained success

The summer transfer window of 2021 brought a level of unease to Chelsea supporters. Sure, the club added Romelu Lukaku to the mix—a move that, at the time, seemed like the last piece to sustained dominance in the Premier League and European Cups—but it also saw the outgoing transfers of young Cobham-bred talent. These departures left fans wondering if the club was effectively managing its pipeline of talented youth.

Historically speaking, this isn’t the first time that the Blues have sold high-quality talent before they could truly reach their prime. In 2014, Chelsea let Lukaku leave for £28 million, only to see his value almost triple in just three short years. Similarly, the Blues allowed Tariq Lamptey to depart and have since seen him become one of the most dynamic wingbacks in the Premier League.

Thanks to these learned lessons, Marina Granovskaia ensured that the club wouldn’t make the same mistake twice by attaching buy-back clauses to promising outgoing talent. This is a move that may prove to be a stabilizer for the club’s competitive ambitions. For those that aren’t familiar with buy-back clauses, these are contractual agreements with clubs that allow Chelsea to re-purchase the players at a pre-determined price or receive “right of first refusal” if those players generate interest in the transfer market from other clubs.

The option to trigger a buy-back clause becomes an incredible asset for a team unsure about its financial future. Let’s take a look at what flexibility some of these clauses bring the Blues:

1. Tammy Abraham

The fanbase has been mostly at odds regarding whether Tammy Abraham has a high enough ceiling to become a featured striker in Chelsea’s attack. Yet, Abraham has been incredibly productive thus far during his stint with Roma. He has netted 21 goals and four assists in 39 matches this season. The Blues will have the option to bring him back in the future with a buy-back clause of £68 million. If he continues his current trajectory, he’ll be a bargain in the summer of 2023 in a striker market that continues to see incredible inflation.

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2. Tino Livramento

Hindsight being 20/20, letting Tino Livramento go to Southhampton was a colossal mistake. The promising wingback—who many identified as the next big name to emerge from the Chelsea Academy—would have seen plenty of first team reps this season when you consider the injuries the squad has had to manage. Nevertheless, the young defender could not visualize a realistic pathway to regular football early on and orchestrated a move away from London. Everything about Livramento suggests that he’s got the potential to be one of the best young defenders in English football. Livramento’s buy-back option of £25 million offers an opportunity to get depth or a future starter at the position after a couple of seasons with the threat of limited funding in the future. This flexibility maintains a pathway to elite defensive play from a homegrown talent should Chelsea be unable to acquire other—more expensive—options.

3. Marc Guehi

The last of the bunch is Marc Guehi, a player who was just recently named to the England National Team squad for the first time. Guehi has been lauded this season for his incredible development and his promise as a potentially elite centerback. The 21-year-old represents an interesting player to monitor because of his talent profile and presumed fit in Tuchel’s system.

It’s worth noting the Guehi has a little more complicated option in his contract with Crystal Palace, as the Blues will be given the opportunity of “right of first refusal” for any offer to buy the player in the future. It’s not ideal for a player of this talent, but knowing the Guehi is out there and Chelsea can let the market play out before having to make a move is a great position to be in, should the player continue to develop.

Overall, the inclusion of clauses to give the Blues flexibility to re-acquire talent is not new, but it is brilliant. We are living in a time where Chelsea may or may not maintain the same level of financial ability or brand attraction that it possessed even a year ago. Whether Granovskaia knew it or not, her shrewd business acumen has positioned this club to remain competitive for the foreseeable future. Just like Hannibal, I love it when a plan comes together.

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Which players do you think the Blues would be smart to bring back? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!