Thursday, September 03, 2009

Cradle Snatchers

It was a shock this afternoon when news broke that Chelsea have been banned from signing players until January 2011.

To me, and my fellow football-following colleagues, it was an unexpected announcement - none of us could remember hearing about the case before today, and none of us had heard of Gael Kakuta.

(I'd be willing to wager that even most Chelsea "fans" were oblivious to his existence until today.)

It's a brave step by FIFA, banning one of the world's richest (but not necessarily biggest and definitely not most successful) clubs from adding to their already formidable squad for the next 18 months.

It also explains why Chelsea were so quick to secure key players like John Terry and Ashley Cole to new long-term deals in the past week. But it does raise question marks over why they didn't rush out and sign new players ahead of the ban.

None of the players the club was linked with this summer made the move to Stamford Bridge, leaving Carlo Ancelotti with the same squad as that left behind by Guus Hiddink.

That's not necessarily a massive hardship - they're still a formidable force and one of the English game's most powerful clubs.

But all it would take would be a serious injury or loss of form from one or two of the club's key players and they could find themselves on the slide.

Aside from the hardship to Chelsea, I think that FIFA's decision shows that it does at least have some balls. If it won't simply stand by and watch clubs mercilessly plunder others of their homegrown talent, perhaps we'll see gradual shifts in the balance of power.

I'm not expecting Brechin City or Montrose to be up challenging the Old Firm any time soon (even if there have been a few players from the Angus clubs who have made the step up to the Premier League in recent years, including Andy Webster).

But if smaller clubs can nurture their talented players without having to fear that they will be snatched by a bigger club as soon as they show that they're special, maybe we will see those with better youth systems make more progress than they do now.

Amongst the potential beneficiaries are Hibs and Rangers, who have both produced a fair dose of Scottish internationals in recent years.

But no doubt Chelsea will appeal, money will talk and the status quo will remain.

No comments: