In this season, Chelsea spent over $350 million on transfers. For references, that’s more than the transfer spendings of Leicester, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Brentford, Brighton, Fulham and Aston Villa combined.
Some of their biggest signings include buying from fellow Premier League clubs. For one, Leicester charged the Blues $80 million for defender Wesley Fofana. Chelsea dropped $65 million on Brighton wing-back Marc Cucurella. Raheem Sterling came over from Manchester City for just shy of $60 million.
Clearly, Todd Boehly is not afraid to sign the checks to bring in players he and his staff think are elite or have potential to be elite.
Despite extravagant signings, Chelsea find itself tenth near the halfway point in the season. Erling Haaland has more goals than the Chelsea squad itself. Not even a year into his takeover, supports are making calls to remove Boehly from office. It’s certainly not ideal for a Blues side projected to challenge for the league title just a handful of months ago.
Chelsea’s success in the boardroom but failure on the field is yet another classic case of how the transfer market does not exactly influence the results of the matches. But, there are multiple questions swirling around the fate of this Chelsea side. It spends so much, but it is not helping. The time is running out for Chelsea to make a turnaround.
The spending is not black and white with Chelsea transfers
Labeling someone as a flop just off of goals scored or clean sheets is not only unfair, but it is foolish. It ignores the context of the situation. Consequently, it only looks at surface-level statistics, and only considers the present situation. Instead, analyze each transfer case-by-case. Chelsea’s recent acquisitions may not seem so grim.
Chelsea bought Wesley Fofana for around $80 million. He has a high ceiling; he’s only 22; and he has the potential to make an immediate impact for the first team. He stars for Chelsea every now and then despite his age, and he shows a preciousness unmatched by most of the league. Unfortunately, he picked up a knee injury in October. Happily for Graham Potter, his return is on the near horizon.
Chelsea bought Marc Cucurella off Brighton for an exorbitant fee. Cucurella has played an important part in Chelsea’s season, providing defensive stability and the occasional threat from the flanks. He’s been a great success, even if the eyes are continuously on him.
Chelsea bought Raheem Sterling from Manchester City for a figure somewhere around $55 million. Although Chelsea’s attack has left much to be desired, it has not been Sterling’s fault. He has been creative, clinical and a genuine threat, as well as leading Chelsea in goals. Like Fofana, Sterling’s absence with injury is noticeable.
Kalidou Koulibaly, signed for $38 million from Napoli, is arguably the only flop at Stamford Bridge. Despite some good performances against Tottenham and Everton, he looks beleaguered against top-level teams. A good example was Chelsea’ 4-0 rout at the hands of City, where he looked sluggish defending the explosive City attack.
Signings for the future
Players like Benoit Badiashile, David Datro Fofana, Andrey Santos and Carney Chukwuemeka all seem to be signings for the future; expensive ones at that. They combine for around $80 million.
All of these players are some of the best in the world, and they’ve definitely proved it. There have been glimmers of individual brilliance from each of them, and it would not be crazy to say that none of them are flops. There are all arguably worth their price tag.
It is not out of the question to say that the Chelsea higher-ups are the reason for the underwhelming signings as Boehly’s inexperience in the world of soccer is a factor in their transfer failure. All of the summer signings were signings without purpose. Chelsea brought on these transfers just for the sake of signing big names.
Thomas Tuchel did not sign off on many of the signings over recent campaigns. In fact, the popular story is that he did not recognize Denis Zakaria when Zakaria first arrived for training. Graham Potter inherits a star-studded, but unwanted club, and he is slowly, but surely leaving his mark on the club.
It results in an uncomfortable situation where the manager does not use the player despite the big price tag Chelsea spend. Players like Zakaria and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have been used sparingly by both Tuchel and Potter. Not only that, but some Chelsea transfers can be described as “for the future.” It’s unlikely players like Santos, David Datro Fofana, and Chukwuemeka will have an immediate impact on the first team due to their inexperience at the top level.
With that in mind, you should expect more hurried transfer business from the Blues. They desperately need players, with injuries and suspensions plaguing the side. Although the club is heading in the right direction with its “Vision 2030” plan, Chelsea’s situation is dire, and they need immediate reinforcements.
Keeping up the spending
Make no mistake, Chelsea’s spending is out of the norm, but they have been big spenders throughout the past decade. The Blues have only spent under $100 million twice in the last ten years, and they are infamous for their activity in the transfer market. They’ve been spending a lot, and especially with a bigger purse to pull from, they will likely be fine financially.
Their financial freedom means that they can yet again demolish transfer records. If they are willing to buy the Fernandez’s $130 million release clause, it would become Chelsea’s most expensive transfer ever, beating out the blockbuster Romelu Lukaku deal in 2021.
Talks to sign Gladbach star Marcus Thuram and Sporting’s Pedro Porro are both reportedly “advanced.” Dynamo Moscow talent Arsen Zakharyan is reportedly set to fly to London to complete his medical in around a week. It’s a lot, but it’s worth noting that Chelsea contact nearly every young player in Europe. Half of these deals may not even materialize, what with competition from other Premier League clubs and Financial Fair Play regulations.
Chelsea’s deal to sign Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig in summer 2023 is all-but official. Fabrizio Romano reports the transfer figure will be above $65 million.
It’s a lot of news and a lot of money for a club that was on the verge of bankruptcy just a year after Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale. And no one would predict that Chelsea would be closer to relegation than a Champions League place by the halfway mark of the season. But in the already-chaotic Boehly era, anything is possible.
Brace yourself as Chelsea looks to start salvaging the season with a Sunday match against Crystal Palace using some of these transfers playing a role. Just not Joao Felix on suspension.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage