As the British transfer window once again slammed shut at the end of August it’s an ideal time to reflect on the busy summer of transfer business at the club. We’ve seen legends leave the club and new potential superstars arrive, but has the club made the right moves in the market to bring silverware back to the Bridge this season?
Firstly let’s have a glance over the new arrivals, Werder Bremen received £6.5m for Marko Marin, Lille £32m for Eden Hazard, his brother Thorgan Hazard was undisclosed from Lens, Oscar was a big £25m move from Internacional, £7m prized César Azpilicueta from Marseille and finally Victor Moses will see us pay a reported £9m to Wigan. That’s a cool £79.5m outlay on transfer fees alone. For transfer fees received we’ve only had the £8m from Fenerbahçe for Raul Meireles. At first glance, in terms of financial fair play regulations and general book balancing at the club, this looks a very poor balance sheet – at least a colossal £71.5m in the red.
However when we start to look at some of the wider factors of our summer dealings it’s arguable that this summer’s transfer outlay does see us actually spend within our means.
One of the main business fillips of our Champions League run came outside of just pocketing the prize money in May. After the group phase the two Manchester clubs were out of the competition and Arsenal followed in round two. As CL television revenue is split between the country’s clubs, with the league champions getting the bulk of the share, Chelsea financially benefited from our rivals early exits. Rather than receive a share of the Premiership revenue pot we took the full amount each subsequent round. As such, our television income increased significantly for the later stages of the competition. When gate receipts and sponsorship have been factored in the victory in Munich was estimated to generate the club €64m in Champions League revenue alone.
On top of the competition money we accumulated last season the victories have also brought about world football kudos that has attracted a number of corporate sponsorship deals that have again helped to boost the coffers. On top of this we’ve seen a significant number of high earners on the payroll leave. It has been recently reported that Andy Carroll’s annual wage would save Liverpool £4m this season by the loan agreement with West Ham. For Chelsea the likes of Drogba, Kalou, Meireles, Benayoun, Essien and Bosingwa were signed with big fees and/or big wages – the savings the club have made here cannot be underestimated. The players brought in have been predominately younger, with predominately lower wages, and as a result we should see a significant decrease in our outgoings for the season ahead. On a footballing sense allowing Essien to leave on transfer day without a replacement is a move fans have rightly questioned. For those in charge of the spreadsheets to have a high earner picking up a wage for sitting on the bench (as it appears Malouda may do) is a no brainer.
Increasingly playing ball with Financial Fair Play rules is a big influence on club decisions, at board level the players are an asset that can either be a drain on resources or help to bring in income. Although the transfer fees may have seemed a splurge of Abramovich-backed cash the club seemed to have taken quite prudent steps in some of their summer dealings by trimming the staff wage bill and utilising last season’s increased competition income.
Whereas the business acumen in the resolving staff door at Stamford Bridge may make business sense far less sense can be made of our current policy for loaning out players. Promising young talent has been brought into the club with significant fees matching the player potential. We’ve paid £7m for De Bruyne, £13m rising to £18m for Lukaku and £5m to £7.9m for Courtois yet have barely seen any minutes of these players in a Chelsea shirt. The Belgian trio could cost us over thirty two million yet Chelsea fans have yet to see any value returned from these players out on the pitch. It’s a puzzling policy, especially given the qualities of the players involved. Even more exasperating is that we appear to be short in striking options in particular, with only Sturridge, Torres and possibly Moses, yet Lukaku is on a season long loan deal and impressing at Steve Clark’s West Brom. We currently have over twenty players out on loan, the majority of which are young players gaining experience and minutes under their belts but we do have to question how many of these players will get the opportunity for the Chelsea first team. It’s been great to see Ryan Bertrand establish himself but the fans want to see more. The Likes of Van Aanholt and Kalas, currently at Dutch side Vitesse, and Josh McEachran up at Boro are an older crop of very talented footballers that should be pushing for a spot in the first team squad. To sign them off for another season long loan deal seems wasteful on the club’s part and is a strange policy that seems to undermine the good work the academy staff are doing in nurturing our next generation of players.
The transfer policy, in the main, seems to have been well thought out this summer. The coaching team have clearly recognised that we lacked pace at times in the forward lines. Di Matteo will have also noted that we required more creative, instinctive players in the final third to break stubborn defensive team down. Finally we set out to recruit a world-class right back, so that can defend and attack down the right flank as well as we can on the left. Of course it is far too early to proclaim any of these buys as strong investments yet, judgment has to be reserved until the end of the season, but we can pretty pleased with the recruitment drive as a whole. It’s certainly been targeted and many first choice options were signed up ahead of our rivals. We’ve managed to deliver a marquee signing in Eden Hazard and secured some of the best young players in the game, arguably not an overinflated rate, in the positions where we needed to strengthen. There was a strong call from supporters to sign a big money forward (Hulk, Cavani, Falcao) to replace Drogba but that would have certainly tipped us well over the edge of anything approaching sustainable spending. It looks like the next big money signing can wait until next year.