It's not just incisive midfield play and experience on the big stage that make Cesc Fabregas attractive to Chelsea, who have today signed the former Arsenal captain from Barcelona for £30m on a five-year deal.
Fabregas’s value to the Blues has increased markedly since the club decided to part company with two of its long-serving stars in Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
Aside from being club legends, both Cole and Lampard had another crucial attribute in these days of quotas: they were designated homegrown players under Premier League and European Champions League rules.
Under those rules, clubs are limited to naming 17 non-home grown players aged over 21 in their squads. Crucially, because Fabregas was trained as a teenager in the Arsenal academy, he qualifies as a homegrown player, despite being a Spanish national.
This is surely another angle in Chelsea’s pursuit of the 27-year-old which adds to his attractiveness to the club, for whom defenders John Terry and Gary Cahill are the only homegrown players remaining guaranteed of a place in manager Jose Mourinho’s senior squad.
At the start of last season Chelsea’s Premier League squad included five homegrown players: Terry, Cahill, Lampard, Cole, and Ryan Bertrand, who later went on loan to Aston Villa mid-season.
It would not be surprising to see Chelsea looking to supplement their homegrown talent further over the summer to rebuild a new core of home grown players at the club, but in the long run the club may want to consider integrating more players from its much-praised but little called-upon youth academy, which showed its strength last season with Chelsea winning the under-21 Premier League title and the under-18 Youth Cup.
With an array of young talent including Lewis Baker, named as the club’s young player of the year, and Patrick Bamford, who has continued to develop with a successful loan spell at Derby at the end of last season, the club looks set to have a strong pool to draw from as it builds for the future.
The pre-season tour next month will be an opportunity for youngsters to prove their worth, though Mourinho has not been known for taking risks on youth.