FIFA presidential candidate singles out Chelsea - Vitesse partnership as example of why transfer system is broken

Mark Nolan

FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne is not a fan of the relationship between Chelsea and Vitesse.

In a thematic letter outlining his policy platform on transfer reform, FIFA presidential candidate Jerome Champagne singled out the relationship between Chelsea and Vitesse (and specifically, the Bertrand Traore deal) as an example of why he believes the transfer system needs to be reformed.

An 18 year-old player Bertrand Traoré was transferred to Chelsea and [was] then was immediately sent on loan to its subsidiary club Vitesse Arnhem, while continuing to serve itself in other European clubs' academies, notably from Barcelona's with player Josimar. But the "Blues" are not alone in this trade, with Julio Pleguezuelo and Sergi Canos having left La Masia for Arsenal and Liverpool.

- Jerome Champagne

The quote may seem a bit confusing at first glance, but from what I understand, Champagne is essentially stating that clubs should not be stockpiling (some might say "poaching") young players.  This sentiment is directly at odds with Chelsea's plan for FFP compliance and its overall philosophy when it comes to player acquisition (in terms of both the transfer market as well as youth development).

As I discussed earlier this month, Chelsea purchases, and then subsequently loans out, significantly more young players than any other Premier League club.  It is an extremely cost-effective way of developing young talent and the players deemed surplus to requirements can either be sold for significant profit (Kevin de Bruyne), or at the very least, at a break-even price (Jeffrey Bruma, Slobodan Rajkovic).

For perspective, the 2013-14 FFP cost of Chelsea's loanees is around £29.3m.  If you choose to offset the cost with the profit from the Kevin de Bruyne sale, the figure is reduced to around £18.5m.

Given the relatively small financial commitment required to field an army of loanees, Chelsea only needs to develop a few players with first-team potential for this strategy to be economically viable.  Due in large part to the global scouting network Michael Emenalo, Bruce Buck, and Piet de Visser have created, Chelsea has more than a few bright young stars.  While I'm not going to speculate as to the market value for the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Kurt Zouma, Kenneth Omeruo, Lucas Piazon, Patrick van Aanholt, Patrick Bamford, and Oriol Romeu just to name a few, it's clear that Chelsea has already received an extraordinary return on its investment in youth acquisition and development.

It's easy to see why Chelsea wants to sign as many talented young players as possible, but it's also just as easy to see why so many young players want to sign for Chelsea.  There are only a handful of clubs in the world that can offer what Chelsea can in terms of prestige and wages, and it's not as if Chelsea are forcing these youngsters to sign with the club.  On the contrary, with the possible exception of Marco van Ginkel, every single player on Chelsea's books was likely thrilled with the opportunity to be a part of the club and jumped at the chance to sign up.

So, what does it mean for Chelsea with regards to Champange's bid?  I'm not very well-versed in FIFA politics, but Gabriele Marcotti believes that Champagne has a legitimate chance to win if Sepp Blatter, the seventy-seven year old incumbent, decides not to run again.

While the postition of FIFA president does not allow for the unilateral declaration that stockpiling youth players or creating relationships with other clubs is no longer allowed, the stature that comes with the job naturally provides for the president's opinions and ideas to be given considerable weight.

There are a number of extremely important issues in football that demand our attention (specifically, players' rights vis-à-vis the transfer market and increased regulations with regards to the system of third-party ownership), but restricting the ability of young players to decide what clubs they want to play for is not one of them.  Given that Champagne specifically highlights the relationship between Chelsea and Vitesse as an example of what's wrong with the current transfer system (and he singles out Chelsea elsewhere as well), it's worth keeping an eye on the developments with his campaign and the FIFA election in general.

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