This summer marks 10 years since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea football club and changed them forever. In these 10 years, they’ve gone from a team of lovable stylists who couldn’t ever quite mount a title challenge, through a decade of unprecedented success. One Champions League, three Premier Leagues, one Europa League, four FA Cups and two League Cups have been won, hundred of millions of pounds spent and players used from all over the world.
They’ve had eight managers and made legends of the likes of Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. But the current squad has the core of talent that is unprecedented in club history. They have the young talent to eclipse what has gone before.
Jose Mourinho’s 2004-06 side dominated the league with their rock solid defence, team work and effective attack. They won so many trophies but aside from the Chelsea fans, won only respect and professional admiration. They blew threw the league like a hurricane, smashing everything in their path.
After that, the club transitioned along, always competitive but never as dominant. Carlo Ancelotti got record attacking output from these same players but they were still unable to win the biggest trophy of them all, the Champions League. Indeed, it was only under Roberto Di Matteo and his counter attacking siege mentality that they won the big eared cup. They rode the odds, but they won it.
But Abramovich wanted style too, and last season there were signs that this style could be matched with substance, and this is because Chelsea have the kind of young players that could soon be the envy of the world.
This Chelsea team can grow in to the club’s best ever. Chelsea possess the kind of technical quality, pace, work rate, goals and winning attitude that combines the best of previous outfits with an infusion of the kind of attacking quality and pretty football Abramovich has dreamed of watching since buying the club.
The key to this potential dominance is the depth of young talent that they have flooding through the squad. Over recent years, none of the big clubs in Europe have done as well as Chelsea in the transfer market. In fact, they have so much talent that they don’t necessarily know what to do with it. But, with Jose Mourinho fully committed to using it, they can grow in to the European powerhouse.
At the moment, the club have Petr Cech, who regained his status as one of the top keepers in the world last year. Ready to take over from him is Thibaut Courtois, the best goalkeeping prospect in the world and already in the top ten.
Cesar Azpilicueta was signed to little fanfare last year but over the last few months of the season, was as good as any right back in Europe. His pace and football intelligence is an impressive combination. He looks like a young Phillip Lahm and seems like he is about to win the job in the Spanish national team. He could easily become one of the very best in the world.
David Luiz has his critics, but as I profiled here, has the talent, and now the manager, to become the best in the world. Mourinho turned maverick talents Lucio and Sergio Ramos into the best in the continent whilst he was managing them. If anything, David Luiz has even more talent. If Mourinho can eradicate the mistakes and losses of concentration, he has literally everything he needs to be the best in the world.
Youngster Nathaniel Chalobah has the most talent of any young English player. His glidy elegance in possession and complete range of passing is an incredible mix for an 18-year-old. He has all the technical quality and positional intelligence to develop in to this generation’s John Terry, Chelsea’s homegrown star, which the fans want so much. He has more than a little Schweinsteiger to his game. He makes it looks absurdly easy.
Eden Hazard and Juan Mata are already amongst the best attacking midfielders in the world and can only get better. Mata was involved in over 50 goals last year. Eden Hazard’s debut season was as good as any overseas player has had in England. Imagine if he has a second season as good as the one Juan Mata has just had, he could even do better.
By the end of the season, Mata and Hazard could easily be the best combination in the world. And then there’s Oscar who had an excellent first season when they didn’t expect it. Now they also have Kevin De Bruyne coming back. De Bruyne has a tool kit that could make him a genuinely world class player in a couple of years. He is an ideal compliment to Mata and Hazard.
Added to that, they have Romelu Lukaku. Lukaku is only 20 and just scored 17 goals in the Premier League. Of the elite worldwide striker prospects, it’s only really Neymar who can compare to that, and Neymar’s numbers were in the Brazilian league. Lukaku is that good. I think Neymar can be the best player in the world, and Lukaku isn’t far off his pace.
They might even be about to sign Edinson Cavani, already one of the top five in the world. If you could build a striker, he would look like Lukaku. With the likes of Ramires, Schurrle, Kalas, Piazon and Thorgan Hazard, maybe even Marco van Ginkel, also available, Chelsea have cornered the market on young quality.
In previous guises, Chelsea have always had some of the top players in the world. The team they are building could easily have five or six of the best players in the world, maybe even the best in their position. They have the talent to win trophies and to do it in style. They have the talent to become Chelsea’s best ever team.