Thanks, in part, to our record 33 players sent out on loan this summer, and the lull of the international break, there's been plenty of talk about loan policies and youth development recently. Most of it has been useless and banal and sensationalist, but some, such as @KingSRV's piece over at YouthHawk have been very good. You should read that one.
Whether Chelsea are approaching this whole youth development thing the right way, especially once a player outgrows the level of competition afforded by the academy and the U21-U18 leagues, is up for debate of course, as is whether we're ever going to (be able to) afford opportunities for young players to impress with the parent club. Having a manager like Jose Mourinho in charge, despite all his talk since his return about an increased emphasis on youth integration, also isn't helping the general perception regarding the state of things.
Still, Jose can rightly point to a few success stories, to a few youngsters whom he's taken under his wing and made into mature professionals over the years. David Santon comes to mind. Kurt Zouma looks to be heading down that road. Or even Eden Hazard, if we want to be generous, who was just 22 when Mourinho entered his life. And of course Raphael Varane at Real Madrid. And it is the latter who
unburied the lede and had some nice words for the Chelsea boss recently.
"During my second season at Real Madrid, Jose Mourinho gave me a kick up my arse. I was not doing well and I was unable to do the things I wanted to do on the pitch. So he took it up with me. He asked why I wasn't running more in training. At first I was not impressed, but I eventually realised he was right. I had to do more."
"Mourinho always hits the right spot. He does not need long speeches. He is precise and very direct. He was doing it for my own benefit. I need to question myself to reach my best form. Without this pressure, I tend to rest on my laurels and don't push myself."
-Raphael Varane; source Le Journal du Dimanche via FourFourTwo
Varane struggled with fitness and form a couple years ago but eventually re-established himself under Carlo Ancelotti as well. Now, under yet another new manager, he's started both of Real Madrid's league matches so far this season. And it's all thanks to the butt-kicking. Yet another satisfied customer of the Mourinho challenge.
So perhaps all that does give some hope for the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, or Kurt Zouma, and the dozens of highly promising prospects in the Chelsea system. Maybe.
P.S.: Also, Varane to Chelsea confirmed, obviously. Duh. You're welcome.