Well, well, well. Sepp Blatter will have been fuming yesterday as news emerged that not only have Chelsea signed a new young goalkeeper despite their ban from FIFA, but the selling club were actually very happy about it.
It was revealed yesterday that Chelsea have agreed a £2.5m (approximately) deal to bring 6’2” 17 year old goalkeeper Matej Delac to West London from Croatian side Inter Zapresic. Delac will join Jan Sebek, another young goalkeeper who recently moved to Chelsea, as soon as FIFA’s transfer ban has expired.
This is an interesting development even just on face value: the FIFA ban clearly won’t stop Chelsea dipping into the market to buy young players on agreements that bring them to the club on a future date. Arguably the ban might even help Chelsea purchase younger players as smaller clubs will be able to benefit from keeping their player in the short term.
More interesting however is the response of Zapresic’s Director, Branko Laljak, who said this of the deal:
“This transfer will save our club from bankruptcy. We are sure this transfer will help us, as now the whole world will know the name of our club. We are proud that we made a player for one of the biggest clubs in the world”.
Laljak’s comments are certainly a far cry from Lens’ finger-pointing that we heard a fortnight ago, and perfectly illustrate that there is a broader argument to the debate around the trade of younger players that is not currently being discussed in formal circles or the media. In a similar way that I argued two weeks ago that the transfer window is actually a serious restriction of smaller clubs’ ability to do vital pieces of business to protect themselves financially, Laljak’s comments suggest that most smaller clubs can benefit from doing business with giants of the game over their young talent (provided everything is above board, of course) both financially and reputationally. Indeed in Zapresic’s case, the Chelsea deal has saved them from liquidation.
In looking to stop the fair and legitimate movement of young players as has been mooted, FIFA not only delay the best young players from moving to get experience that matches their ability but also to some extent prevent smaller clubs from being completely free to take benefit from the players they have ‘created’. Putting a stop to young players being sold internationally would probably lead to the sort of deal that we have seen between Chelsea and Zapresic becoming commonplace, having far-reaching consequences for scouting and wasted transfer expenditure.
When and how young players can be bought and sold is a complex issue but, if Laljak’s comments prove anything, there’s more to the arguments supporting greater freedom of movement than meets the eye. One thing is certainly clear to me: stopping young players moving clubs isn’t necessarily a positive ambition on its own.
In the meantime Chelsea have, in a way, defied FIFA. How do you like that, Blatter?