Michael Edwards has embarrassed Todd Boehly and Chelsea with vastly superior Liverpool setup

Chelsea owner Tood Boehly looks on following the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on March 11, 2024 in London, England.
-Credit: (Image: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

People are sensing the hand of Michael Edwards in the potential first signing of the Arne Slot era. And it's not a good look for Todd Boehly and Chelsea.

Edwards was offered a job at Chelsea under the Boehly regime, in a role remarkably similar to the one he has now taken up with Liverpool owners FSG. But it's the Reds who are benefiting from his services as a kind of CEO of Football.

And the first player through the door in this new era at Liverpool could be Chelsea youth sensation Rio Ngumoha. Yesterday, Fabrizio Romano reported that a deal is "close", in a move which has the hallmarks of a classic Edwards transfer masterclass.

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Of course, Edwards is no longer the sporting director, having appointed Richard Hughes to that position. But he is in charge of shaping big-picture strategy, and Liverpool became masters of buying and selling youth talent during his first tenure.

Just take Rhian Brewster, who also arrived from Chelsea, before earning Liverpool a massive payday. Dominic Solanke made the same journey.

And it seems Boehly will allow that trend to continue. It appears Chelsea has learned nothing from years of draining its top academy talent, with the potential loss of Ngumoha only half the story.

It isn't just Liverpool who has benefitted from the steady stream of top talent away from Cobham. Jamal Musiala is another famous graduate of the Chelsea youth system, where he played with Michael Olise — those two will now be linking up at Bayern Munich.

The truly absurd thing, though, is that while these kinds of players continue to walk out the door on Boehly's watch, the American owner funnels millions into hoovering up young talent from elsewhere. Just this summer, for instance, Chelsea sanctioned an initial spend of $37m (£29m/€34m) on teenager Estevao Willian.

Liverpool's defender Agustin Cayetano (L) and Palmeiras' forward Estevao Willian fight for the ball during the Copa Libertadores group stage second leg football match between Uruguay's Liverpool and Brazil's Palmeiras, at the Centenario stadium in Montevideo, on May 9, 2024.
Chelsea has parted with significant cash to sign Estevao Willian from Palmeiras. -Credit:EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP via Getty Images

It may be that he turns into one of the best in the world, as Chelsea clearly hopes. Merely mentioning him and Ngumoha in the same article could age poorly. But it's not really about who specifically has the higher ceiling out of those two: it's just a bleak state of affairs when some of the highest-rated academy stars leave for pennies, at a club purporting to invest so heavily in its future.

Young players do get poached sometimes, so the move for Ngumoha isn't where Liverpool has truly "embarrassed" Chelsea. But where the London club comes out looking so shabby is the contrast in how the two sides treat youth players.

As Edwards maps out what he wants the club to look like moving forward, he will certainly seek to keep Liverpool's reputation as the foremost destination for giving young players a chance. Jurgen Klopp was a big part of achieving that in the past, but it's also baked into the club culture.

Vitor Matos was a dedicated link between the Academy and the first team, a vacancy now set to be filled by Aaron Briggs. The building of the AXA Training Centre was partly about getting the youngsters and senior players in the same place, enabling a more fluid interchange.

There has been a concerted effort to stop players falling through the gaps. At Chelsea, these gaps are gaping chasms, and players drop through them like lemmings off a cliff.

Hopefully Ngumoha completes a move to Liverpool, and he can complete his development in a youth system with a clear pathway to the first team. But whatever his individual fate, it's clear that Edwards is presiding over a football operation that puts Boehly and Chelsea to shame.