Chelsea take a look at Peru 2005 stars
English Premiership champions Chelsea have earned a reputation for snapping up the very best players that money can buy since the arrival of their Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
Their star-studded team is packed with international class, so it might come as a surprise to learn that they have not one, but two of their scouts at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 looking for fresh prospects yet to emerge on the senior stage.
Clearly, Abramovich has not lost his eye for a bargain and Chelsea's Sporting Director and former Denmark international Frank Arnesen has been jetting all over Peru eyeing up the latest youth talent in a bid to safeguard Chelsea's current success.
FIFA.com caught up with Arnesen in Piura and he revealed that Abramovich has taken a personal interest in what's been happening at Peru 2005. He said: "I have spoken to him a few times since I have been in Peru and he is so passionate about football. He watches four or five games a day sometimes, so he is very interested to know what's going on here."
Explaining the Chelsea philosophy, he added: "In the future we will have to take players into our own academy to develop them from when they are very young and that can start from the age of eight or nine upwards. That will never stop us buying a big player either of course. We are the best and we want to stay the best, so we will hopefully do that by mixing up a combination of youth and top players from outside."
Arnesen, who estimates he is one of about 20 to 25 scouts currently in Peru, said: "I am not here to directly to buy players, because they are only 17 and there is a long way to go still, but you have to know where the best ones are coming from. If there are guys you like, you follow them and see what happens, though we cannot bring non-Europeans over before they are 18 because of the regulations anyway, so it's a long process. I have another Chelsea scout here watching different matches and between us we will cover all the teams taking part.
"I have to think about the style of English football and whether these boys will be able to adapt to that. Physically, they have to be very strong and I always keep in mind whether they will be able to cope with the living environment of being in England. When I was doing the same job for PSV Eindhoven, their technical skills, pace and awareness were perhaps more important.
"The talent here is at a very high level. Taking Brazil for instance, I liked Renato, Ramon, Anderson and Leyrielton very much. Gambia's Momodou Ceesay started the tournament well against Brazil, but against Qatar he didn't seem to have much movement at all, so players are a bit up and down and we have to watch them over a long period of time.
"For Turkey, I liked Nuri Sahan and the forward Tevfik Kose; two very good intelligent players. Mexico have two strong strikers in Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela. The China goalkeeper Dalei Wang was excellent and he is only a young lad born in 1989, so there are prospects all over the place."
Lerby keeps up lifelong partnership
Arnesen has been joined in Peru by travelling companion, friend and former international team-mate Sören Lerby, who these days makes his living as a player agent with no fewer than four of the Netherlands U-17 team on his books, including Newcastle United goalkeeper Tim Krul.
The pair played in the same teams from the age of 15 upwards before they both hit the big time together in the Netherlands with spells at Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. They took part in the European Championship for three years up to the U-18 level and enjoyed a decade of success in the Danish national team, including the much-heralded 1986 FIFA World Cup™ side.
"If they had the FIFA U-17 World Championship when we were at that age of course we would have loved to have been there as well," Arnesen said with a wistful smile.
Lerby said: "This has been a fantastic tournament and we have seen a lot of good games with lots of people in the stadiums and a good atmosphere. Once again Brazil have shown themselves to be very strong and Gambia looked good in their first two matches. Those teams, along with Turkey, Mexico and Holland have been the best we have watched I think.
"The players learn a lot at a tournament like this. Being away together for a long time is good experience for the future. You work together with your friends and that's great. You also come up against different types of player with skills you might not have seen before and there is much you can learn from that."
The Danish duo will spend the rest of Peru 2005 compiling their personal All-Star XI for their own amusement, but once the dust has settled on the FIFA U-17 World Championship, Arnesen will be back at his desk at Stamford Bridge, studying his notes and working on the very serious business of tracking the stars of the future. Will he stake his considerable reputation on bringing some new faces to Chelsea after their emergence in Peru? Only time will tell.