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Mourinho hints at Solanke, Loftus-Cheek plans for next season

Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

There's a rather interesting bit of contrast here between Mourinho's words and the ones we just read from Patrick Bamford.  Granted, Bamford's a bit older than either Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Dominic Solanke, and he was also an academy "import," so to say, rather than part of the fabric since before his pre-teens (both RLC and Solanke joined at the under-8 level).

"Next year [Solanke] has two ways to go. For me it would be a big mistake for him to go on loan to another team in England or in Europe."

"Staying at Chelsea, training with the first team, having pre-season with the first team, sometimes covering the main strikers, and playing every week again for the Under-21s and the Under-18s - he would probably never need to go out on loan. He can just go step by step here, and in a couple of years [he will be a] first team player."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC

It's important to remember that a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be applied to player development.  What might work for one player may not work for others.  What has worked for Bamford (or, for example, Courtois) might not be the best way for Solanke to go.  We should not necessarily read this as an endorsement of one player over another, or one method over another.

"When a player is like Loftus-Cheek or Solanke - that we know for sure has the potential to play for Chelsea one day - it's better for them to stay and develop at Chelsea. They belong to an integrated project. They belong to the club. They train with me, they are in my meetings, and they play for me in some matches. For many of them this is the best way to do it."

"Ruben is a great example. He was never on loan. He was just working and waiting and now he knows next season he is a first team player."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC

Mourinho perhaps might prefer to train and develop all these players himself, but he certainly managed to integrate Courtois just fine, while the likes of Lewis Baker and Nathan Aké had gone out on short-term loans this season as well.  As Bamford and many other young players have related over the years, it's important for them to play competitive matches beyond the level that U18/U21 competitions and training sessions provide.  While that level has gotten higher recently with the restructuring of the reserves leagues and the introduction of new domestic and European cups, it's still no match for the intensity and significance of matches in the professional leagues.  The only way to expose most of the youngsters in the academy to these experiences is via the loan system.  (And let's not forget about players like Bertrand Traoré who must be loaned due to their work permit situation.)

Still, with Mourinho reiterating once again his "first-team player" aims (whatever those specifically may mean) for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, maybe we'll see success stories using either method.

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