Chelsea’s transfer policy has gone through a number of transitions in recent years. The club have gone from signing big stars such as Crespo and Veron in the early years, through to signing Shevchenko and Ballack despite winning the league title in 05/06. Having looked to be trying to make ends meet Chelsea then attempted to settle the books with more prudent signings such as Ben-Haim, Pizzaro and Sidwell on free transfers. But what does this summer tell us about Chelsea’s transfer goals?
Shift in emphasis?
Since arriving at Chelsea Roman Abramovich has been more intent on bringing in big stars than adopting a coherent transfer policy. The likes of Crespo and Mutu were initially signed despite Chelsea having one of the league’s best strike partnerships in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen. This disruption is similar to Chelsea signing Andriy Shevchenko despite him not being versed in playing in a 4-3-3.
Despite the panic buy of Fernando Torres last season there has been a general shift in policy over the last three or four years which has seen Chelsea’s net spend drop. In the summer of 07 for example Chelsea didn’t spend money but opted to bring in players on free transfers such as Tal Ben Haim, Claudio Pizzarro and Steve Sidwell, which was bizarre considering Chelsea’s financial muscle then was even greater than it is now. Last season Abramovich could have, and probably should have instigated an overhaul of the squad that would have cost millions but instead the club only brought in Juan Mata and Meireles as first team players. In the summer of 09/10 despite winning the league Chelsea released several first team players as well as only bringing in only one first team player, Ramires from Benfica. This prompted some people to speculate that perhaps Abramovich no longer had the appetite for Chelsea and was more focused on the Russian national side.
One of the main shifts has been a new emphasis on youth. Roman Abramovich has not only invested millions in new youth facilities, sanctioned the signing of up and coming 15/16 year olds but also began to commission Ron Gourlay to start signing players such as Bamford, Lukaku, Romeu as well as Villias last summer. The project has yet to lead to a youth team player emerging to the first team, although Bertrand looks to now be Chelsea’s 2nd choice left back, which does demonstrate progress. Several players have also gone on to forge successfully careers away from Chelsea such as Miroslav Stoch and Borini with Fernebache and Roma respectively.
Chelsea and the FFP
Peter Kenyon famously, and now somewhat laughably, said that Chelsea would be self-sufficient by 2010. Having announced £67 million losses last season this is clearly far from the reality of the situation. However if we consider that £70 million was spent on Luiz and Torres in the 2010/11 January transfer window and £43 million was spent on the firing and hiring of managerial staff then this figure is not as bad as it first appears and thus it looks like Chelsea are trying to gear towards being more self-sufficient. Chelsea’s desire to break even is clearly a motivating factor for their change in policy which is highlighted by the clubs accounts showing a drop in annual spend on wages of £4.4 million from last year.
As AVB started to do and now with the release of Didier Drogba Chelsea are trying to dismantle the side that brought so much success under Mourinho with the hope that a new generation emerges on a much smaller wage bill, than the previous generation of players. Despite this trend emerging the club look now to have returned to type, being linked with big money signings for players who’d likely demand huge wages such as Eden Hazard, and now Hulk. Bringing in big money signings is reminiscent of the early Abramovich days, which indicates that winning the Champions League has only reignited Abramovich’s love for spending and beating City to Hazard demonstrates the clubs intent.
The consequences of this are that Chelsea are, to a degree, flouting the FFP regulation which they surely cannot meet despite the cutting of the wage bill and a subsequent rise in revenue that will result from their historic Champions League victory. The club have though trimmed the wage bill even further by moving on Bosingwa, Kalou and Drogba, as well as players such as Malouda being linked with moves away. What appears to be happening is Chelsea trying to strike a balance between big money signings such as Hazard and more shrewd acquisitions such as Marin and perhaps Victor Moses.
A further consequence of this is that it means that youth will continuously be marginalized at Chelsea with first team opportunities being few and far between. Young players such as Lukaku, Bruyne, McEachran and Romeu will find first team opportunities increasingly hard to come by next season as Chelsea will bulk up the squad. The result of this will be that these players may look for loan moves and eventually move on.
It will not come cheap for Chelsea to rebuild their side and much work is still needed. The problem was that the younger players signed in the early years such as Kalou and Mikel, and the older players such as Zhirkov and Bosingwa simply did not come good and as a result wholesale changes are needed as a transition never took place.
With this in mind Chelsea may struggle to stay on course to meet the FFP regulation, although revenue will be up as a result of winning the Champions League. We may witness a slight slimming down of the squad in other areas this season with Essien, Malouda and Meireles all linked with moves away. Chelsea will as noted, look to strike a balance between the big name stars, squad players and youth in order to establish a winning formula to carry them into the future.
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