Add together a few pertinent factors and Chelsea were always going to indulge in a spending spree this summer. It was inevitable.
Their transfer ban in 2019/20 may feel like ancient history now but for an elite club that measures itself on silverware, a summer of inactivity amounts to standing still while their rivals get stronger. In that regard, the Blues are still playing catch-up.
Falling under new ownership is of course another reason and a highly significant one too. Following the unprecedented circumstances that led to Roman Abramovich selling up, with his club under heavy sanctions, a consortium led by billionaire businessman Todd Boehly took control of the five-time Premier League winners to the tune of £4.25bn and naturally a fresh chapter necessitates new personnel to symbolise it. Naturally, the incoming suits wanted to immediately make their mark and flex their financial muscle.
To that end, Boehly has essentially installed himself as an interim sporting director, scouring Europe for available players and making himself personally involved in signing them. We will return to this imminently.
Chelsea’s 2021/22 campaign also partly explains their current prominence in the transfer market. Initially, under Thomas Tuchel, they appeared to be a transformed and formidable proposition; a clean-sheet-keeping machine that could compete once again at the very top. Indeed, a mere six months into their Tuchel era, Chelsea lifted the Champions League and reached a FA Cup final.
Only then they regressed, only a little but enough. Last term, they finished third in the league, lost in two domestic finals, and were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in the Champions League, and understandably for a club of their standing so many near misses prompted a need to strengthen, to improve.
Then lastly, there was the very real and requisite buys that had to be made, to replace departing first-team players. With Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, both leaving for Spain suddenly Chelsea’s back-line looked a little threadbare and when attempts to sign Jules Kounde and Matthijs De Ligt came to nothing, the club settled on Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli for a fee in the region of £33m. The 31-year-old is an excellent securement, meeting every criteria and then some, and for a price that cannot be quibbled with.
One of the best defenders 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 in his prime years on a five-year contract… 🤩
Kalidou Koulibaly for £33m is one of the best Premier League signings in recent memory, let alone this summer. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/4i4DMI3NYV
— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) August 17, 2022
Up front, meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku’s disastrous stint in West London came to a premature end and this meant finding a prestigious and prolific forward was a must for a club that aspired to move up a level.
In mid-July, Chelsea surprised many by luring Raheem Sterling to the Bridge from one of their biggest rivals and a hundred different reasons can be put forward as to why it can be viewed as a very good signing for the Blues, all of them undermined by a simple question: do they really need him?
After all, if there is one part of Chelsea’s squad that is supremely well stocked it is in the wide attacking areas, even allowing for Timo Werner’s exit. Frankly, it is entirely possible to forget one or two of their gifted wingers if totting them up by hand.
And then, earlier this month came another unanticipated purchase, again in a position that no-one expected – nor saw the need – to be added to. When Manchester City baulked at paying £50m for Brighton’s Marc Cucurella – a left-back with just one decent season in the top-flight to his name – Chelsea thought nothing of lavishing £63m on the player. To repeat for emphasis: £63m.
CLUB STATEMENT: MARC CUCURELLA.
Following reports from numerous media outlets this week, we can confirm an agreement has been reached with Brighton and Hove Albion for the signing of Marc Cucurella.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 5, 2022
So, what now for the brilliant Ben Chilwell? And what now for logic, because bizarrely, the Blues possess a duo of great options at left wing-back and no recognised centre-forward beyond Armando Broja and returning loanees don’t typically get a fair deal at Stamford Bridge.
This ill-balance and scattergun decision-making in their transfer dealings smacks of randomly throwing money at a wall to see which bid sticks and their chaotic approach shows little sign of slowing down either, with recent reports suggesting there is serious interest in Everton’s Anthony Gordon for a whopping £50m.
If Chelsea don’t need Sterling, nor Cucurella, then times that thinking ten-fold for the talented Toffee who could conceivably see his career seriously stall should he move south. You worry for him. You worry this could be Danny Drinkwater all over again.
As for their striker quest, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and all his accompanying baggage seemingly tops their list, a cheap compromise if ever there was one, not to mention a huge risk, for a role they desperately need to prioritise their big spending on. That big spending however is clearly being reserved for another centre-back, with Leicester’s Wesley Fofana being coveted for the astronomical and utterly ludicrous sum anywhere north of £85m. Oh, and then there’s Frenkie De Jong too, because having a midfield staffed by Konte, Kovacic, and Jorginho is clearly not good enough.
All of this madness was remarked upon recently by Gary Neville who claimed Boehly ‘looks like he wants to play Football Manager’ and describes Chelsea’s transfer activity as ‘panicky’ and from these comments two thoughts occur.
The first is that Neville is absolutely right, for all that his words annoyed the Chelsea faithful. The second is that he is a lone voice, being critical of a club that has long spent recklessly and completely got away with it.
In the summer of 2021, the Blues shelled out a colossal and record-breaking £101.7m on Lukaku, a striker whose attributes Tuchel swiftly found he had little use for. That in itself blows the mind. It genuinely blows the mind.
A year later, he was loaned back to Inter, for a fee under £7m.
— Pys (@CFCPys) August 17, 2022
And this summer, showing that exactly no lessons have been learned, Chelsea are again the spoilt kid in a sweet shop, pointing excitedly at the jars, waving their pocket money around as if it’s compulsory to spend it.
If this were Manchester City acting this way, the flak received would be relentless. Hell, City get it anyway, despite constructing title-winning squads and baulking at silly fees for unproven left-backs.
If this were Manchester United, social media would be ablaze with laughter at their expensive missteps.
Yet for Chelsea, there is nothing. Nothing but silence and acceptance. As if this is who they are, and this is what they’re supposed to be.
That too blows the mind. And frustrates enormously.
Read Also – Five of the best: Thierry Henry goals