You have to hand it to the new owner of Chelsea FC Todd Boehly. If you’re replacing Roman Abramovich as owner and ushering in a new era after the club’s trophy-winning era overseen by a Russian oligarch, you can win over fans by spending money that would even make Abramovich raise one of his very expressive eyebrows. At least it shows an understanding of what Chelsea fans are used to.
Why Chelsea spent $400+ million
Chelsea spent over 400 million dollars in the January transfer window alone. Chelsea alone spent more last month than the entire leagues of Spain, Germany, Italy and France. The headliners are Enzo Fernández, Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoît Badiashile and Joao Felix on loan. Several other team players were brought in, and again, it’s worth repeating, for around $400 million. In a month.
So the question is why? Generally, spending in January is limited to filling one hole or desperately grabbing any bargains you can find, as clubs are reluctant to give up anyone useful mid-season. But when Boehly shows up with checks of this size, clubs can clearly come to terms with losing.
But Chelsea is above all trying to be ahead of the curve. Thanks to their summer consumption, and, more precisely, the way they structured contracts for their new players, UEFA changes the rules to financial fair play. Currently, transfer fees paid can be spread over the length of a player’s contract for accounting purposes. That’s why Chelsea signs their new players to seven- and eight-year contracts, very long for the football world. That’s what Enzo Fernandez got, so his $130 million in compensation over the eight-year deal he just signed is only $16.2 million on the books each year. Thanks to this, Chelsea’s path to looking profitable and financially stable is much easier.
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You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t this what Juventus just got a timeout for?” Sort of. But Juve used it in player exchanges and inflating those prices to make it look like they are in the red. From now on, Chelsea just plows through the hole like she’s driving a War Rig. And these players they buy are worth the price they pay, and they don’t trade other players in return. Mudryk was one of the most sought-after wingers in Europe. Fernandez just won the World Cup Young Player title.
However, next season UEFA is setting a five-year limit on how much the transfer fee can be spread over. So if Chelsea had waited until the summer to pay Alabama’s GDP for Fernandez, that same fee would suddenly appear as $26 million each year. So now you can see why Boehly wanted to pass this on.
What does that mean for Chelsea on the pitch?
What does that mean on the field? It is clear that Chelsea have needed a midfield change for some time. Jorginho got older, which didn’t help a player who was already quite slow as a youngster. N’Golo Kante is unlikely to be able to get on the field enough, and his all-round action, Tasmanian devil ping all over the field will be more difficult to perform when he’s healthy in his 30s. momteo Kovačić looked a bit sluggish through it all, although one can sense that he could hold out with some younger, springier teammates around him.
Does Fernandez do it alone? It’s not as clear cut as the fee would suggest. While he looked great at the World Cup, buying players based on performances at international tournaments tends to be crowded. Remember when everyone had to have Renato Sanches after Euro 2018? It’s just a strange combination of teammates, tactics and opponents that doesn’t exactly look like it’s soldiering through a nine-month league season. Additionally, Fernandez has only 17 appearances in the Portuguese league with Benfica. He was part of the team that simply destroyed Juventus in the Champions League, as well as two draws against PSG. There’s no ceiling on it, but we’re not too sure about the floor either. Chelsea bet big, hugely bigonly on potential.
Mudryk certainly provides an injection of pace and directness, and Felix has been an untapped potential long enough to wonder if he still exists, but Chelsea have already been poor with wide forwards. Wide receivers who can’t stay healthy (Hi Christian!) or interested (Hi Hakim!). Clear, Chelsea will reshape their attacking line.
But none of their acquisitions are centre-forwards. Kai Havertz proved that it is not him, as he also did not define what position he should play. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was very similar a player that Barcelona no longer wanted. Graham Potter’s Brighton side were known for their play until the crucial moment and the cavalcade of clowns they had at the striker who tried to finish them off but failed. So far, it looks like he’s trying to do it again at Stamford Bridge.
Badiashile looks to have redeemed himself for last summer’s signing of Kalidou Koulibaly, who failed to impress in the Premier League at the age of 31 (and Napoli didn’t really miss him). They have some insurance behind Reece James in Malo Gust.
But the question must be is chelsea against missing out on the champions league? They are currently 10th in the table, 10 points behind fourth placed Manchester United. That’s a lot to climb. Can they win this year’s CL to enter next year’s show? Ehhhhhh. The usual favorites look a little more vulnerable than usual. Munich can’t stop drawing. Real Madrid is behind Barcelona. Man City are a different beast, built around an unholy beast, but have just loaned out perhaps their second best player in years. Liverpool is…well, you know. PSG is PSG.
But will Graham Potter, in his first season in the competition, lead a team that has been assembled over the last few weeks for old Big Ears? A tall figure there, my friend. Does Boehly have the fuel to sustain all this without Champions League income? We’ll probably find out. Perhaps all the frenzied activity was aimed at not being found out.
You certainly can’t accuse him of a lack of effort.