Chelsea can be a peculiar side to sign for. Despite investing substantially in their youth academy since the arrival of Roman Abramovich in 2003, Chelsea have failed to manage any player through their academy into the first team since John Terry. Due to what appears to be a paucity in local talent, Chelsea have often adopted a much more scattergun approach to developing young players, eschewing their own youth team and choosing to hoover up all the world's best young talents with promises of high pay and stardom. However, in Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have a manager without any intention of promoting any young players whatsoever, and so have found themselves with a stockpile of players seemingly a million miles away from the first XI; languishing with the Blues every pre-season, limited to sporadic friendlies and cup competitions.
To combat this stockpiling, Chelsea have taken to loaning out their cast-offs en masse each year under the guise of furthering their development; some to Vitesse (their feeder club in all but name), and some to the rest of Europe. Some have been crushed under the wheel of this suck-it-and-see philosophy with their bright young talent extinguished by months spent on benches in far-flung European towns and cities. Others, such as Thibaut Courtois, have used the system to develop their game to the standard required to compete at Chelsea's level, with Courtois displacing Chelsea's long-time stalwart Petr Cech upon his return from a 3-year spell between the posts at Atletico Madrid. It is a brutal manner of dealing with young players, yet as seen with Courtois and the sale of Kevin De Bruyne - who was sold for £18m after just 3 appearances for the Blues - it appears to be working for Chelsea.
That being said, the current calibre of Chelsea loanees is very, very high. Through years of spending, Chelsea have amassed themselves a 'second squad' of young, talented, technically skilled players who - despite their young age - often turn out and star for their respective loan sides. So we thought: how would a team of Chelsea's on-loan starlets line up? Well, a bit like this, we think:
NB. We're excluding the likes of Marin, Moses and Salah as they were bought initially for the first-team, and not the academy.
GK- MATEJ DELAC (joined Chelsea in 2010 for £2.3m from Inter Zapresic, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
LB- WALLACE (joined Chelsea in 2013 for £4.75m from Fluminense, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
CB- TOMAS KALAS (joined Chelsea in 2010 for £5.28m from Sigma Olomouc, 2 appearances for Chelsea)
CB- NATHANIEL CHALOBAH (youth academy product, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
RB- KENNETH OMERUO (joined Chelsea in 2012 from Standard Liege, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
CDM-ORIOL ROMEU (joined Chelsea in 2011 for £4.4m from FC Barcelona, 22 appearances for Chelsea)
CM- MARIO PASALIC (joined Chelsea in 2014 for £2.2m from Hadjuk Split, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
CAM- THORGAN HAZARD (joined Chelsea in 2012 for £880k from RC Lens, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
LW- LUCAS PIAZON (joined Chelsea in 2012 for £6.6m from Sao Paulo, 1 appearance for Chelsea)
RW- BERTRAND TRAORE (joined Chelsea in 2010 from Auxerre, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
ST- PATRICK BAMFORD (joined Chelsea in 2012 for £2.2m from Nottingham Forest, 0 appearances for Chelsea)
Total cost: £28.61m
Total league appearances for Chelsea: 25 (with 22 of those appearances being Oriol Romeu's)
As we can see quite clearly, there are very few players with any experience whatsoever playing for Chelsea, however this side would be an interesting one. The back-four would know how to bring the ball forward, with cultured passers in Chalobah and Omeruo, and a strong, pacy full-back in Wallace. Romeu - a La Masia educated, intelligent midfielder - would be able to cover, giving the wiry Croat Mario Pasalic license to roam in midfield.
And yet, it is in attack where this side would shine, with a variety of incredibly quick, incredibly nimble goal-minded attackers. Thorgan Hazard has already proven himself as a talent in his own right, single-handedly pushing Belgian minnows Zulte-Waregem into the Champions League qualifiers during his spell there with 22 goals and 30 assists in 90 games. Hazard would most likely overlap with Lucas Piazon between the left flank and number 10 spot, with the so-called 'Mini Kaka' being able to terrorise defences however he pleases, much like during his time at Vitesse. Bertrand Traore - who replaced Piazon at Vitesse - would occupy the right-flank, with his rapid acceleration and slight frame allowing him to jink past opposition full-backs, whereas Patrick Bamford, who has now scored 39 goals in 3 seasons between League One and the Championship, would thrive in such a mobile attack-line.
Will any of these Chelsea starlets ever make it into Mourinho's first team? As it stands, that unfortunately looks unlikely, with Mourinho unlikely to break the habit of a lifetime in blooding in youngsters to perform at the top-level. However, that side would be a formidable one of itself; perhaps not of the quality to compete in the Premier League, but more than good enough for the Championship, and maybe even promotion contenders. It's a shame that Chelsea's careless spending may one day cost several of the XI their chance to develop and flourish; however, there can be no argument that Chelsea have access to a staggering pool of talent, and if just one of those players becomes a Thibaut Courtois, then the many failed transfers will - to Abramovich - be undoubtedly justified.