Saturday 25 November 2017

Villas-Boas accepts 'club decisions' as Chelsea buy young

Glenn Moore

WHILE Chelsea still intend to sign a seasoned international midfielder before the transfer window closes, ideally Luka Modric, their spending so far this summer has been with an eye to the future.

Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku and Thibault Courtois are aged 19, 18 and 19 respectively. Even Valencia's Juan Mata, for whom Chelsea are claimed to have bid £27m, is only 23.

There is nothing new in this. Manchester United and Arsenal have for years bought players of potential because they are cheaper than the finished article -- they can shape the player's game to the club's style and can usually make a hefty profit should they wish to sell him on.

The difference is that at United and Arsenal, the manager is an established long-term figure. No manager has lasted more than four seasons at Chelsea since Dave Sexton left in 1974.

The club's purchases suggest either Andre Villas-Boas has tremendous confidence in his own abilities and tenure, or they have been made by someone else.

To judge from the manager's comments yesterday, the latter is the case.

"Every decision is a club decision, not just the manager," he said. "It's a group decision between everybody -- with the owner (Roman Abramovich or his intermediary, chief executive Ron Gourlay), with Michael Emenalo (technical director) and the scouting network.

"Signing Courtois, Lukaku and Oriol was a statement for the future -- that we are aware of the best talent. It is a club decision. We all agreed it would make sense for our future whoever is in the position (of manager).

"The objective is not to lower the average age. The objective is to get the best talent around. Courtois (who is on a season-long loan to Atletico Madrid and so unable to deputise for the injured Petr Cech against West Brom today) was the Belgian champion and one of the best goalkeepers in the Belgian league.

"Lukaku has broken through so early into the Anderlecht XI, plus he has European experiences with them and the price was sensible -- a good grab. We felt we couldn't afford to lose a talent like this.

"At Barcelona, Oriol came up against some of the best international talent in that position with (Sergio) Busquets, (Cesc) Fabregas, (Javier) Mascherano. A breakthrough for Barcelona was difficult."

All very well for the future, but Villas-Boas has to win matches now.


With the mooted Modric transfer dragging on, and Michael Essien a long-term injury victim, he is thus very grateful to John Obi Mikel for continuing to play despite the midfielder's father having been kidnapped in Nigeria. Not that he puts any pressure on Mikel to play.

It was Villas-Boas who broke the news to Mikel, something he said was "very difficult".

The 24-year-old then said he still wanted to play at Stoke last Sunday and did so. He has continued to train at the club and is available for today's match at Stamford Bridge.

"It's a sensitive situation and pretty traumatic," said Villa-Boas. "I just have to go with what my player says to me, and for the game against Stoke, Mikel felt able to play.

"He is showing amazing mental strength. Hopefully he can get this solved as soon as possible." (© Independent News Service)

Chelsea v West Brom,

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