In less than a year, the transfer ban enforced on Chelsea has turned them from being a club that produced players for other clubs, to a club of first team academy graduates with a young English manager in charge of them who is committed to blooding young English footballers.
Perhaps without the imposed FIFA ban, Chelsea might not have promoted Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James to the first team squad, and Callum Hudson-Odoi might not have signed a new contract. Facing two transfer windows without the possibility of making a new signing, Chelsea were almost forced to put their faith in their own players.
But it’s not a coincidence that such a talented group of players were all at the club at the same time; their academy had been refining the process of identifying and developing players for years. Chelsea honed the art of making footballers, and just when the authorities discovered what they were up to, the club had already made the breakthrough.
The ban it seems has been a price worth paying for the club who can now focus their priorities, manage supporter expectations and put faith in a manager who has turned them in to a team of home-grown player’s, virtually over one summer. The Chelsea generation has also benefitted the England team.
Hopefully, the boys cited in FIFA’s case against the club, who uprooted their lives in the hope of becoming a Chelsea footballer, will eventually enjoy some success too.
Now the Court of Arbitration for Sport has cancelled the January window ban, Chelsea can spend again, but will that need to please fans with big signings re-emerge, or will they stay loyal to what is coming out of their academy?
There is talk of going for summer targets, such as Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell, so they might already be looking to spend at the high-end of the market, but as both are English talents, it says a lot about how the club has changed in recent years.
A club the size of Chelsea will always be in the market for the best players in the world, yet despite an aggressive recruitment campaign at academy level across Europe and beyond, the group of players who have made the jump from academy to the first team this season are almost exclusively from London.
So is the forgotten man, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who is currently injured and the first Chelsea academy graduate of the era to come through to taste first team action.
It should tell Chelsea everything they need to know – there are players with the talent and appetite to become Champions League-standard footballers within the schools and clubs of London – are other places across England.
What will be the legacy of the FIFA transfer ban? Well currently, a homegrown core of first team players, a homegrown manager and his three homegrown coaching staff. To think the transfer ban was imposed because of the way Chelsea acted in recruiting players from around the world, only for them to realise the answer lay on their doorstep.