Di Santo and the Chelsea Youth Team Conundrum

When you think young Argetinian starlet, who usually comes to mind? Leo Messi, Saviola? Carlitos? How about Peter Crouch? Wait, what?

For most Chelsea fans who were first made aware that the club had signed an 18-year-old Argentine named Franco Di Santo in December, their immediate thought probably revolved around Messi and whether or not this kid was the second coming. Well, think again.a_franco_v.jpg

Di Santo, at 6-foot-5, is more Crouchy than Messi. Purchased for around $7 million from Chliean outfit Audax Italiano, Di Santo needs some sandwiches -- double meat. Other than that, he can supposedly hold his own on the ground and, unlike Crouch, uses his head as a weapon. According to reports, he's more of a poacher than creator --think Ruud. His scoring record at Audax (16 goals in 69 appearances) is not very impressive, but since there's hardly any video on the kid, it's hard to judge just exactly what attracted us and several other Premier League clubs.

I bring all this up because Di Santo is supposedly joining the club next week, and I wonder just what path his career will take in London.

Will he blossom, or will he struggle to even get into the first team, say like Scott Sinclair or Ben Sahar? Don't get me wrong I like them both, and each likely still has a promising career ahead. But how long will it be before they actually get a chance? And no, I'm not talking a few Carling Cup starts or the occasional 85th-minute cameo in the FA Cup? During their time at Chelsea, Sahar has made five appearances (all as a substitute) and Sinclair six -- hardly enough to judge their impact.

sahar_ben_cfc_profile_2006.jpgNow the overwhelming sentiment from most Chelsea fans I have interacted with is that Sinclair has deserved a run in the team for a while. Sahar is a mixed bag; some feel he's ready, others do not. Regardless, the kid has seven caps for his country and two goals. More caps for his country than his club? It's not like Israel is the Faroe Islands, either. As it stands, neither has really seen extended action in any competition.

So is Di Santo in for the same? Unknown. Though he may be ready for the Prem, it's highly unlikely. Thus he begins his Chelsea career in the reserves. Maybe he excels, maybe not. If not, do we loan him out (to QPR)? Does this become another story of young talent losing out to a world-class player with a world-class transfer fee? In fact, who's the last Chelsea youth team player to actually become a regular first teamer? Yeah, John Terry. That's it.

Of course, Frank Arnesen said his youth plan would start producing results in 2010 -- with a player being promoted from the academy to the first team every year. Hardly realistic. And even if that's the case, why wait? If kids like Sahar and Sinclair are talented enough, which they look to be, why not give them an extended run in the side? As for Di Santo, it remains to be seen what will happen. I just hope these young men soon become integral pieces, rather than well-travelled substitutes -- or better yet, talented contributors for one of our rivals.

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