How Chelsea are able to spend so much money this summer

Thomas Tuchel had summer signings worth nearly £150 million to call upon to help secure Chelsea‘s 1-0 win over Everton in their first Premier League game of the season but he clearly doesn’t think it’s enough.

«If we can add, we add,» he told Sky Sports afterwards. «Maybe not necessarily midfielders as the first option, but we are open for everything and I think we can use new energy, new legs and fresh input to bring us to a new level.

«If not, then we will push this team, but I think we could use some input and more quality. We are on it but we will not tell you (who)!”

In truth, the names aren’t much of a secret. Chelsea are in the process of bidding for Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana and have already had a couple of offers turned down. The suggestion is that it will cost around £85 million, around the sum Manchester United had to pay Leicester for Harry Maguire in 2019, to get the centre-back.

It is going to take in the region of £70 million to acquire Frenkie de Jong, should he resolve his wages dispute with Barcelona and opt to move to London rather than Manchester United, which is thought to be the midfielder’s preference. Then there is interest in strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Benjamin Sesko, plus Inter Milan right-back Denzel Dumfries.

Given the way the last few months have gone, one cannot rule out other emerging targets, especially if the moves mentioned above do not come off. Come the deadline on September 1, it is very likely that Chelsea’s new co-owners will have broken the club record for money spent on signings (set two years ago when they paid in excess of £200 million) in one window.

When you consider Chelsea have also paid out another £23.3 million (not including add-ons) for youngsters Carney Chukwuemeka and Gabriel Slonina, which takes their total for the summer in excess of £160 million, you can understand why some people might be asking how the club can afford all this in an era of Financial Fair Play. So far they have brought in only £6.9 million from the loan fee which saw Romelu Lukaku return to Inter Milan.

Chelsea’s last financial results showed that they made a loss of £145.6 million for the year up to June 30 2021 and that their wage bill was one of the highest in the game at £333 million.

However, Football Finance expert Kieran Maguire isn’t worried. «I’m actually pretty relaxed about Chelsea,» he says The Athletic. «I know they’ve made big losses in the past but they can say COVID had an impact on a couple of the seasons. They have been selling players far more than anyone else, they are the biggest generators of revenue (example of this provided by football business Twitter account Swiss Ramble, who explained that in five years up to 2020, Chelsea made £434 million from sales. The next highest were Liverpool at £276 million and Everton at £208 million).

«The situation has flipped. Just as supporters shouldn’t have been worried about not buying enough players a few weeks ago, they shouldn’t be worried about player sales now. It will happen.»

What is going on right now, the amount of players Chelsea are interested in or have made bids for, is similar to Roman Abramovich’s first transfer window in 2003. The club ended up spending £111.25 million on 10 players, including Claude Makelele, Damien Duff and Hernan Crespo.

Using a Football Inflation Calculator devised by Maguire, one can work out what that expenditure is roughly worth in today’s money. The formula only runs up to 2019, but it says the outlay in 2003 would have cost £360.6 million now. Using to bring it right up to date, it suggests £360.6 million in 2019 is now the equivalent of £406.3 million. Chelsea did not raise many funds through sales that summer either, with the majority of players leaving on a free.


Kalidou Koulibaly made his debut for Chelsea at Goodison Park on Saturday (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

It helps put things in some perspective, that Chelsea have been down this road before. People will understandably point to how Abramovich agreed to write off £1.6 billion of debt he was owed by the club when he sold it in May and question if this is history repeating itself, that a wealthy benefactor is going to make big losses from the outset .

However, Maguire adds: «Historically, while Chelsea are the biggest spenders in the Premier League, they have also generated the most money from player sales over the years. Last season you saw Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham going to Italy (AC Milan and Roma respectively for combined £59 million). When academy players like them leave for big money, that is pure profit.

«When you’re signing players, you’re spreading the cost over the length of the contract. So if Chelsea spend £300 million this summer, the amortized cost per year is probably going to only be around £50-£60 million. They have made a profit of more than that last summer (Romelu Lukaku’s £97.5 million fee amortized over five years, while sales were in excess of £100 million). People also just focus on the money being paid and ignore the fact that FFP is based on a three-year assessment period.

«It’s taken me by surprise because I didn’t think Boehly-Clearlake would go down this route — to spend, spend, spend. To put it into context and with the help of an inflation calculator I came up with, the first year under Roman was effectively worth a lot more. Admittedly that was in the pre-FFP era but it won’t be excessive by Chelsea’s standards.»

Chelsea intends to trim the squad radically over the next three weeks. For example, Marcos Alonso should depart soon for Barcelona, ​​meanwhile Timo WernerMalang Sarr and Hakim Ziyech are expected to go too. Leipzig are set to re-sign Werner on a permanent deal.

Sources say one of the problems Chelsea are facing though is that due to the generous terms Lukaku was allowed to leave for, clubs are hoping to get similar bargains for unwanted or unhappy personnel. With Chelsea not happy at the numbers being discussed, no wonder departures have been at a minimum so far. It has turned into a bit of a waiting game with the deadline approaching.

While Maguire is upbeat about Chelsea’s financial situation, he does stress the need for there to be more outgoings than have taken place so far.

«They have to do that anyway because otherwise they will be left with a bloated squad,» he added. «Provided those players are willing to play ball, to perhaps accept a pay cut like Lukaku did to go elsewhere or Chelsea give them a financial incentive to leave, then it can be done.»

Chelsea’s performance at Everton wasn’t the most exciting. But all their moves in the market over the remainder of the window will definitely be worth watching.

(Top Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)


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