Will Chelsea ever sort out their extortionate mess?

15.02.2024 16:03:01 Ashlee Kiddell
Chelsea FC, Stamford Bridge SW6 street sign
  • Chelsea have struggled under the new ownership of Todd Boehly, despite spending an extortionate £1 billion 

  • The Blues finished in 12th-place in the Premier League in the first season under the American ownership

  • A total of four head coaches oversaw proceedings in the first campaign under Boehly 

  • There haven't been many improvements during the 2023/24 campaign so far with Chelsea still labouring in mid-table

 

It has been a tumultuous time at Stamford Bridge over the past few seasons, starting with the exodus of Roman Abramovich’s crew. New owner Todd Boehly has sparked an even heavier spending outlay than the club’s previous billionaire oligarch. It is thought that their transfer expenditure has exceeded $1 billion since Boehly took over the club. 

However, results on the pitch haven’t reflected the enormous expenditure over the past two seasons. The Blues finished in 12th-place last season with as many as four head coaches taking the reins throughout the campaign. 

Chelsea have looked for some stability this season and employed what appears to be their long-term coach in Mauricio Pochettino. Nevertheless, the former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain boss has done little to change the tide. 

The west London club currently occupy 10th-place in the Premier League standings, and despite picking up a 3-1 victory away to London rivals Crystal Palace last time out on Monday night, they have won just one of their last three league matches. 

At this stage, Champions League football next season looks distant. They are 13 points behind fourth-placed Spurs and there are just 14 games left of the season. Of course, if they go on a seismic run to end the campaign, there’s a chance to qualify. But recent defeats where they have conceded four goals against both Liverpool and Wolves prove there are still plenty of issues. 

 

 A Youthful Transfer Policy 

Investing in youth is a sensible tactic to deploy if you want to achieve long-term success. That’s what Chelsea have done over the past three windows. They didn’t sign a single player over the age of 26 during the summer window, whilst they have sold ageing players such as Kalidou Koulibaly, Antonio Rudiger, Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovacic, Edouard Mendy, N’Golo Kante and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The majority of their acquisitions have been under the age of 25, and they now boast the youngest squad in the league. 

Head coach Pochettino has even suggested himself that there is an imbalance to his squad, however. Thiago Silva is the oldest player at the club (39-years-old) and he is still a regular in the team. Nevertheless, Marcus Bettinelli is the only other player aged above 30. 

Equally, there has been such a wholesale change to his squad that it is taking time for the players to gel. The Argentine boss also needs time to implement his philosophy, which isn’t an easy task when there have been so many personnel changes. 

However, do Chelsea have the time and patience to wait for success in the long run? With the club out of Europe, they are failing to recuperate essential revenues. As a result, they are at risk of Financial Fair Play (FFP) issues. We have already seen Everton suffer a points deduction this season and the Premier League appear to be clamping down on this. As long as you’re not called Manchester City

 

 Avoiding FFP Breaches

One method that the Blues have attempted to get around the Profit and Sustainability rules is by offering huge contracts to their players. Players such as Benoit Badiashile, Enzo Fernadez, Moises Caicedo, Mykhailo Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson, Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto were all handed contracts the length of 8 years or above. 

The main reason for this is due to accounting. Transfer expenditure is broken down into each year of the contract when it comes to financial accounting. The longer the length of the contract, the smaller the fee accrued on the books per year. This is known as player amortisation. It is not a new tactic, and many clubs have used this method in the past, but it has become widely known since Chelsea have started to use it in recent times. 

It’s a neat accounting loophole for Chelsea to avoid the Premier League and UEFA’s FFP rules. However, it does carry a lot of risks. These players are then tied down to monster contracts. If a player is a hit and is in the first team for the better part of the next decade, sure, it’s a great tactic. Nevertheless, if a player flops, it then becomes a lot harder to get him off the books and the club will be stuck with his wages for a significant period.

In other developments, UEFA has instituted a prohibition on extending transfer fees across contracts exceeding five years, aimed directly at the loophole utilised by Chelsea. It is anticipated that the Premier League will soon follow suit, aiming to eradicate this accounting strategy that Chelsea have capitalized on.

 

 The Future

With all the negatives surrounding Chelsea over the past two seasons, the fact that they have largely invested in youth means that there is hope for the future. Their new players have certainly shown flashes and the signing of Cole Palmer has been the biggest positive at the club for some time.

It will take time for the Blues to get out of their mess. If they don’t return to Europe soon, they may face some even bigger issues regarding FFP. However, let’s not forget they have also shifted a lot of players out of the squad for fairly significant transfer fees. For example, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Guys like Kante, Kovacic, Mendy and Koulibaly would all have been on high wages too. The financial issues aren’t as bad as they may initially seem. 

Patience will be key at Stamford Bridge for now. Pochettino needs time to get his tactics and ideas implemented within the squad. The young players also need time to develop. That said, they face a race against the financial clock to get back into Europe and improve their revenue streams.


 

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