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Stars in the making: Why Frank Arnesen deserves credit for exciting Chelsea superkids

Chelsea's FA Youth Cup champions are the real deal.

Yeah, there's still the second-leg to play at Ewood Park, but Blackburn Rovers have next to no chance of overturning the young Blues' 4-0 first-leg lead.

There's no irony in Chelsea lifting the FA Youth Cup barely a year after Frank Arnesen' departure. The Dane left his development role to take charge of Hamburg happy that his work at the Bridge was done. And the quality Adi Viveash's team boasts suggests his assessment was spot on.

Only the deal for Islam Feruz, who arrived controversially from Celtic at Christmas, does not carry the influence of Arnesen.

Just 16, Feruz, who struck twice against Rovers, is already a Scotland U21 international and regarded among the best young talents from either side of the border.

His family fled to Scotland from the civil war in Somalia, which prompted a change in Fifa eligibility rules - piloted by the former SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith - to allow asylum seekers to be selected by their adopted country.

Scotland U21 coach Billy Stark said of the striker last week: "He is only 16 so he's a very young one and I don't think you can ever be absolutely sure. You can only judge them on their talent just now but he is a very talented boy - there is no doubt about that."

But this is no one-man team. In midfield is Lucas Piazon, who after visiting Juventus last season and appearing all set to sign with the Turin giants, was persuaded by Arnesen and key Blues adviser Piet de Visser to quit Sao Paulo for Chelsea last year. Delays over a visa and registration issues were well worth the wait, with the 18 year-old fast-tracked into former manager Andre Villas-Boas' first team squad and making the bench several times before the Portuguese's demise.

De Visser had been following Piazon since he was 15 and had no hesitation recommending him to good friend Roman Abramovich. The Blues owner agreed to pay a whopping £6.5 million for the then 17 year-old and after just six months, management believe he was well worth the price.

Like Feruz, Chelsea had to see off Premier League rivals Manchester City to land Nathan Ake. And also like his teammate, Ake's move infuriated his former club - Feyenoord - which accused Chelsea of poaching.

Ake was expected to follow Karim Rekik to City, but Arnesen pushed and pushed to bring the young defender to London.

The then Feyenoord sporting director Leo Beenhakker was infuriated, launching into Chelsea and English clubs in general.

"It's driving me crazy that hot prospects are walking away from us like this," Beenhakker said. "The Premier League clubs spoil the market with their behaviour. Other clubs in Europe aren't doing this kind of thing, but the English sides just don't care. I've discussed this matter with Nathan and his parents.

"He told me that he really wanted to move to England and his parents were OK with his decision. I was impressed with Nathan's determination at such a young age but it's bad news for Feyenoord; we can't do anything about it if a foreign club comes up to sign one of our youngsters."

Like with Feruz, all the angst has been worth it for Chelsea, with Ake already being tipped by Holland youth coaches as a future first-choice senior international.

But for all the anticipation around their foreign youngsters, it's one local lad who has youth coaches up and down the country tipping him for big things.

At 14, Nathan Chalobah was already an England U17 international and at 15 he was playing for Chelsea reserves.

Abramovich knows he has something special on his hands and made sure Chalobah would not be tempted elsewhere by making him an instant millionaire - to the tune of £15,000-a-week - when he qualified for his first pro deal in January.

As he prepares to lift his first major trophy at club level, Chalobah can already boast a European Championship winners' medal as part of England's 2010 triumph. Now 17, like Piazon, Chalobah has made the first team bench this season.

And there's more to come at Chelsea behind this current group. The stand out is Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a 16 year-old midfielder who has Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona all trying to tempt him away before he's eligible to turn pro.

In the days of instant results, Arnesen's legacy won't be realised for another few years yet. But for all the criticism he received during his time in charge, it shouldn't be long before his efforts reshaping Chelsea's youth system are celebrated.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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