One of the topics that Jose Mourinho addressed with the media today was Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj. The boss was asked asked opinion on the youngster, and was full of praise with his response:
"Januzaj is a fantastic player, He’s not 18, he’s 25! This is the kind of player who cannot be 18, he must be 25. He’s so mature, so comfortable, so very good. I think he’s a very good player with great conditions to have a long-term career at United."
"I don’t know the boy individually, I’m not with him day by day, but it looks to me like he has everything."
Naturally, the comments from the boss moved away from Januzaj and on to Chelsea:
"You can see that since I left, Chelsea didn’t really have a player coming direct from the academy to the first team. John Terry was the last and it was not with me, it was before my first spell."
"Bringing a player through from the academy to the first team is very important. It’s something I really want to happen. We are working in the academy with the kids, but the transitional period from youth football to the first team is the most difficult one in the game."
"The club is working really well on that area. Eddie Newton is hard-working and well organised. They follow the players who are on loan, the work the players are doing at every club where the players are on loan, and we wait for the right moment to bring them in to succeed here."
It's nice to see Mourinho touching on the topic, and I'd pretty much agree with everything he said. I'll be pretty surprised if we bring through a young player at any point in the near future, without first sending him out on a loan or two. The gulf in quality between the U21 level and the Premier League is just too great for many young players to make the jump successfully, and while the system in place is far from perfect, it's better than simply throwing these kids to the wolves and hoping for the best.
There will always be fans that point to kids like Januzaj and wonder why Chelsea don't put more faith in their academy products to fill first team places, but the reality of the situation is that the 18-year old probably wouldn't be seeing significant minutes at any title contending club. For all the promise he's shown (and all the gushing Mourinho did today), he's still a very, very raw talent. He's certainly shown regular flashes of brilliance while being a bit turnover prone thus far, but he's often so attack oriented that he leaves Patrice evra woefully exposed. None of that should suggest that he's not one of the best young talents in England, but United's over-reliance on such an unpolished player is at least partially to blame for their current league position.
Chelsea's academy is absolutely loaded with talent at the moment, and there are plenty of other academy products currently working their way closer to the first team on loan. The vast majority will never develop into regular starters at Chelsea, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. In the next several years we'll almost certainly see players push through into the first team though, there's just too much talent there for none of them too make it. A little patience is important though, as there is little benefit to rushing a player and potentially stunting their long term development.