I imagine this was in the works before young Jack Wilshere embarrassed the world-class (and World Cup-winning) Barcelona midfield at the Emirates Stadium yesterday, but what an interesting time the defending Champions League semi-finalists have chosen to announce the fact that they'll be opening up a new academy. In England. In fact, in Cobham, which is also the site of Chelsea FC's training ground. The school they've partnered with is actually already attended by the son of one Didier Drogba, an England-based player of some renown.
While I do appreciate that some of England's youngsters could do with having a love for Barcelona-style passing game instilled in them, and that EU regulations presumably say this is totally cool as long as no contracts are signed before the player is 16, it does seem rather cheeky for the Spanish giants to be putting an academy in the middle of Surrey. For their part, Barcelona are saying that it'll help everyone:
We are not coming here to be in competition with Chelsea. We are going to start slowly but surely to build a team here, train all the kids and get that passion. In the future we might lose a player or two to Chelsea or the other way around. It is not a problem.
-Xevi Marce, Barcelona Academy Coach. Source: Sky Sports.
However, until the 90 minute rule goes away (is this happening anytime soon, knowledgeable people?), this is going to be highly annoying. Chelsea are currently constrained by the FA rule that their youth program can only include players within 90 minutes commuting distance of the club's training centre, which means that they're already fighting with several other big clubs for London and the immediate surrounds. Adding the most hyped up team in the world to that list? I'm not very well versed with youth teams and how they operate, but I don't see how it can help, and Chelsea's youngsters don't really seem to have a problem with passing these days anyway.