Opinions divided as record spending spree kicks off post-Abramovich Chelsea era
Roman Abramovich may be gone but Chelsea’s spending have shown no signs of slowing down
If Chelsea supporters feared the post-Abramovich era could result in a slowdown in spending at Stamford Bridge, those concerns were finally allayed after a record-breaking string of spins and deals in the summer transfer market.
US-based businessman Todd Boehly led a consortium that ended Roman Abramovich’s 19-year tenure at the London giants in May; a sale that came amid a veil of sanctions imposed on the Russian billionaire in the wake of the ongoing military campaign in Ukraine.
The changing of the guard in west London raised numerous concerns. Would Chelsea be able to compete at the highest level without Abramovich’s seemingly bottomless wallet? Would the club collapse under its own weight given the range of sanctions they’ve been hit with?
There were even concerns about the club’s status as a viable business as various deadlines were approaching in the final days of the sale.
But once the deal was sealed, Boehly – who appointed himself the club’s interim sporting director – wasted little time flaunting his considerable wealth (and that of his consortium).
Chelsea’s transfer frenzy has perhaps been hastened by the slow start Thomas Tuchel’s men have had so far this season after suffering disappointing defeats to both Leeds and Southampton – two defeats which have already presented the German manager with a tough battle , if he is to catch Pep Guardiola’s strong Manchester City side.
That, coupled with the prospect of a revived Arsenal, Tottenham and perhaps even Manchester United, has left little room for error after just five games of the 2022-23 season.
Chelsea’s spending so far has reflected the challenges they are facing.
First came England international Raheem Sterling; a fugitive from Manchester City who has been marginalized by the arrival of goalscoring phenom Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund. He was succeeded by Kalidou Koulibaly, Chelsea’s longtime Senegalese skipper, the man tasked with injecting the power and pace left after Antonio Rudiger’s departure to Real Madrid.
The moves kept coming.
Next up was Brighton’s Player of the Year Marc Cucurella, whose football apprenticeship was at Barcelona’s famous youth academy, La Masia.
He was joined by the incredibly talented young French defender Wesley Fofana, who was Chelsea’s biggest financial outing of the summer at around £70m (€80m).
Alongside a handful of youngsters, perhaps the most prominent of whom is Aston Villa’s English underage star Carney Chukwuemeka, Chelsea wrapped up their summer business late Thursday when they completed the conquests of Barcelona’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Switzerland midfielder Denis Zakaria, who moves from Juventus to Chelsea for one season.
The combined price of Boehly’s first foray into a summer transfer window? An estimated record-breaking £271.1m (€313m) – the highest total spend by a single club in Premier League history.
“One can endlessly debate whether we’re spending too much or it’s too much money for the players, but the players we’ve gotten are very, very good players and very good personalities“said Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel on Friday after his team’s lavish spending.
🗣 “One can endlessly debate whether we spent too much or too much money on the players, but the players we got are very, very good players.” Thomas Tuchel on Chelsea’s transfer spending this summer, the were highest in the Premier League [£278.4m] pic.twitter.com/eYFPlfjw5v
– Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 2, 2022
“Everything was needed, badly needed, to rebuild the group and inspire the group. I think we made excellent, excellent signings. It doesn’t help if we talk too much about the price… You’ll always find people saying it’s way too much money.
“Okay, but that was the market for us. Maybe we weren’t in the perfect position to always find the right timing and price for what we were doing, but that was nobody’s fault – it was the situation.
“The players we got fit perfectly and I’m really happy to be working with this group now.”
As defiant as Tuchel is, Chelsea’s summer business has its critics.
“Her husband, Todd Woodward, needs to stop walking around a candy store like a kidsaid football pundit Gary Neville in a social media message to Chelsea legend John Terry, referring to the much-criticized former Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward.
“It’s only shotgun and not sustainable. I doubt this approach will go well.”
However, Neville’s words arguably represent the “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” philosophy that has influenced Chelsea’s summer spending strategy – exactly what Tuchel’s comments alluded to.
At the start of the window there were allegations in some circles that Chelsea had not done enough to close the gap between them and Premier League powerhouses Liverpool and Manchester City – but today, the morning after the window closes, Chelsea will accused of overdoing it.
It wasn’t long ago that the Blues were accused of “buying the league” under Abramovich’s watch.
When that accusation is repeated in the early days of Boehly’s tenure at the Premier League giants, one can surmise that Chelsea fans won’t be too concerned about the price tags as long as more silverware shines in their trophy cabinet.