Chelsea are taking steps towards giving themselves a major advantage over their Premier League rivals when it come to recruiting the best domestic young talent in the country by effectively establishing regional feeder club.
Chelsea have been ahead of the game when it comes to academy football for a number of years, reflected in their FA Youth Cup dominance – seven trophies in nine seasons between from 2009 to 2017 – and two UEFA Youth League titles in the 2010s.
But the impact of Brexit is changing the way teams run their youth programmes. English clubs are now subject to full FIFA rules and can no longer sign overseas players under the age of 18, having previously enjoyed the perk of being able to sign EU nationals from the age of 16.
Chelsea had taken advantage of that in the past, allowing them to sign and develop the likes of Nathan Ake, Andreas Christensen, Charly Musonda and other foreign talents.
But with that avenue closed until players are older, Chelsea are turning their attention to British talent, with the Daily Mail reporting that the Blues want to increase their scouting presence in the domestic market, which is now expected to become more competitive than ever.
While official partnerships with 'feeder clubs' are not permitted, it is said that Chelsea have developed an informal relationship with Newcastle City Juniors, a youth club with a prolific record of developing professional players – 56 of their former talents have gone on to sign pro contracts.
Chelsea would also have to wait until players turn 14 before they can sign any of the Newcastle club’s talents to their own academy due to rules about how far youngsters can be from home. But having their foot in the door could give them first dibs of the north east’s best emerging prospects.
One of the ways Chelsea are building a rapport is by loaning Newcastle City Juniors a camera setup to record training and matches, allowing the Blues to keep a remote eye on the developing players.
But Newcastle won’t be their only regional presence and it is said that a similar relationship has also been developed in Bristol. In due course, Chelsea would likely want to have their ear to the ground, so to speak, all over the UK and be in close contact with youth clubs in every major region.
Equally, Chelsea won’t be alone in trying to scout every aspect of the UK market in greater detail than ever before now that youth attention has no choice but to focus on domestic players. Brighton and Southampton are two others that are believed to be looking for scouts in the north east in particular.