…Here’s why that’s significant
By all accounts Arsenal was very much in the running to sign Ukrainian superstar Mykhailo Mudryk during the January transfer window. As the current Premier League leader, the 22-year-old forward had the potential to be a pivotal addition in the title race, writes the BBC.
Instead, Mudryk signed for Arsenal’s crosstown rival, Chelsea.
Now run by American businessman Todd Boehly, Chelsea swooped in to sign Mudryk for a transfer fee of $75 million with an additional $35 million expected as a bonus payment, according to Mudryk’s former club, Shakhtar Donetsk.
Mudryk’s acquisition – as well as the deadline day, British-record $132 million deal for Enzo Fernández – demonstrated what a manic January transfer window it’s been Chelsea, one in which the club’s spending has topped $350 million, according to Transfermarkt, and which has seen eight players arrive, including a raft of attackers.
Back in May, the UK government approved the sale of Chelsea to an ownership group led by Boehly in a deal worth more than $5 billion.
Chelsea was previously owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who put the club up for sale in early March following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying at the time it was “in the best interest of the Club.”
In May, UK government added Abramovich to its list of sanctioned individuals as part of its efforts to “isolate” Russian President Vlamidir Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Boehly’s reign has already seen him get rid of coach Thomas Tuchel, who guided Chelsea to its second Champions League title in 2020/21, replacing the German with Graham Potter.
As well as Chelsea, Boehly has invested in a number of sporting franchises, including stakes in the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
Since arriving at Chelsea, it’s estimated that Boehly has spent close to $750 million on transfers. Barely a day has gone by in January without Chelsea being linked with a host of players.
“I think at least the past month has been pretty exciting as someone who’s been covering it,” Dan Dormer of the ‘London Is Blue Podcast’ told CNN Sport.
“It also has been a little draining because it feels like every day we’re waking up to a new link or a new story.”
Wheeling and dealing
While players have arrived, Chelsea’s results have been inconsistent – for the time being – as evidenced by the club’s fans pining for days gone by and singing, “We’ve got Super Tommy Tuchel,” during their team’s 4-0 hammering by Manchester City in the FA Cup in early January.
But Boehly’s splurge on new talent has never wavered.
“We’re all in – 100% – every minute of every match. Our vision as owners is clear: we want to make the fans proud,” said Boehly in a statement, released when his purchase of Chelsea was completed.
“Along with our commitment to developing the youth squad and acquiring the best talent, our plan of action is to invest in the Club for the long-term and build on Chelsea’s remarkable history of success.”
In his first full transfer window last summer as the club’s interim sporting director, Boehly and Chelsea spent a reported $302.08 million on new signings, according to Transfermarkt. Chelsea never reports how much the club spend on transfers and chose not to comment when offered the chance by CNN on the club’s recent outlay on new players.
Boehly has gone out of his way to attempt to make the transition to life under Potter as smooth as possible, bringing in many of the former Brighton manager’s coaching and backroom staff to assist him.
Meanwhile Christopher Vivell joined as Chelsea’s technical director from RB Leipzig in Germany in December.
“He [Boehly] will provide important support to Graham and the ownership group and play a vital part in advancing our overall vision for the club,” Boehly told the club’s website when Vivell was appointed.
According to Dormer, Chelsea has never adequately replaced technical director Michael Emenalo, who left the club in 2017.
“If you think about it, over different managers, it’s like they were each a different kid and they requested a different Lego set, and they’re trying to build one unified project. And that means at times, not all the pieces are fit together,” said Dormer.
The January transfer window is often viewed as the worst time to buy players, given clubs don’t want to lose valuable assets and arguably hold the upper hand in negotiations. Not that that has deterred the Blues.
As well as Mudryk, Benoît Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana and Fernández were all signed on permanent deals while Portuguese superstar João Félix arrived on loan from Atlético Madrid.
Prior to Fernández’s transfer, Chelsea has bought 15 players this season, spending over $600 million, according to the CIES Football Observatory. The deal for Fernández brings the club’s recent transfer outlay to over $600 million.
That’s quite an outlay, but there is also a long-term strategy at play, with Chelsea targeting young players – 11 of the players signed for transfer fees are aged 22 or under.
Dormer says with older players running out of contract and some looking past their prime, there was a definite need to “replenish” the squad. On the final day of January’s transfer window, veteran midfielder Jorginho was sold to table-topping Arsenal.
“It’s almost like you went for your eye exam and the optometrist is asking: ‘Better one or better two?’ and helping you hone in to what the 20/20 vision is for your glasses,” said Dormer. T”his is something where it has been an evolutionary process of trying to figure out who are those best players.”
Dormer believes Chelsea’s squad now has the required strength in depth.
“If Reece James is injured, Chelsea’s right-hand side dramatically dips in terms of total performance,” he explained.
“And so having similar levels of player to raise the floor on the individual behind your selected starter and then also to have the ability to rotate to keep the entirety of the team healthy, particularly as teams play 40 games, 50 games, 60 games plus a season – plus internationals, plus the lack of time off.”
However, this influx of talent potentially brings problems for Chelsea.
According to UEFA regulations, a club can only register three new players to its playing squad for the Champions League’s knockout stages, meaning that four of Mudryk, Félix, Badiashile, Madueke, Fofana and Fernández will not be able to play in the tournament for Chelsea.