DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 19: Gregory Van Der Wiel of the Netherlands clashes with Daisuke Matsui of Japan during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group E match between Netherlands and Japan at Durban Stadium on June 19, 2010 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
Chelsea's record outlay of £50M on Fernando Torres, followed in quick succession by £23M defender David Luiz, hasn't exactly left fans clamouring for more money to be pouring into the team. Those questioning owner Roman Abramovich's commitment to the team are satisfied that the Russian still cares about the Blues, and those that were worried about the depth of Carlo Ancelotti's squad have been mollified by the acquisition of one of the world's top strikers and a long-term defensive solution.
But still, not all is well for the Blues. While they boast a glittering array of superstars and a promising youth brigade, Chelsea have been lacking a bridge between generations. Prior to the arrival of Torres and Luiz, the only regular players in the Chelsea lineup between 20 and 27 were Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires, and John Obi Mikel, and only Ivanovic can lay claim to being a steady performer for the club this season.
Sooner or later, Chelsea will have to face life without Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, and John Terry. We've had a taste of what that will be like without adequate replacements already this season, especially in the case of Lampard. Chelsea will be going through a period of transition within the next couple of years as stars begin to fade and retire or are sold, and without a solid core of young (but not too young) players nobody can see that going well. Gael Kakuta and Josh McEachran are spectacular talents, but they're not going to make an instant impact, and attempting to simply forge them into full-time first team players would be a wonderful way to completely disrupt their development.
Chelsea's attempts at acquiring players has skipped a generation, and now they're having to compensate. Ramires came in the summer. Luiz and Torres joined this winter. But they're still not done, according to the Guardian.
Gregory van der Wiel, 22 year-old Ajax right back, is an odds-on favourite to become a Blue in the summer, replacing the increasingly ineffective Jose Bosingwa in Chelsea's lineup. Chilaen winger Alexis Sanchez, already in the conversation for best in his position in the world at 22, also looks like a potential buy. Eden Hazard, on my shortlist of players-whose-jerseys-I-have-to-own-if-they-join-the-club, is a less established but still potentially brilliant target. Romelu Lukaku, who at 17 has already been rated at £25M, has been earmarked as the team's long-term replacement for Didier Drogba when the Ivorian finally hangs up his boots.
Chelsea are going to pursue these players and many more in the next transfer window (indeed, they attempted to purchase Lukaku over the winter, but were temporarily turned down by Anderlecht). This is being framed as a betrayal of the youth movement, but I don't think that's accurate. There are only so many players in the academy that have the sort of talent to break into the Chelsea first team, and by the time the rising McEachrans and Kakutas are at their peaks, the club's current superstars will have moved on.
Chelsea's youngsters will want to be playing with some of the best players in the world. Abramovich is taking steps to ensure that they'll get that chance. Say what you will about the morality of being able to drop ludicrous sums of money on new players*, but at least this time the Blues will be spending their riches on the upcoming generation rather than on those on their way out. Just when everyone thought that Chelsea would have to completely rebuild, they're reloading instead. And that should terrify rivals across England and Europe.
*And if you think it's crazy, I won't disagree with you.