It is not just the British record £107million fee Todd Boehly has paid for Enzo Fernandez, who has played just 29 times for Benfica, which gives the impression that Chelsea’s owner views the transfer market as a gaming exercise.
The Football Manager computer game actually has an amortization facility — the accounting device that Boehly has used to spread vast transfer payments and avoid breaching spending rules. ‘Genius!’ states one of the gamers’ websites drawing players’ attention to it.
That is not the word many would choose to describe the American, who spent more cash on transfers last month than all the clubs of Serie A, the Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 combined.
One of the common conclusions on Wednesday, as the dust settled on Chelsea’s spending frenzy which followed last summer’s outlay of more than £250m, was that the club had bought big and sold cheap.
There was astonishment in some circles that Jorginho was picked up by Arsenal for £12m, even though he is out of contract this summer.
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has splashed big money since his summer takeover of the club
The American has spent heavily on new players since his ownership takeover including Mykhaylo Mudryk who arrived for £88million
Chelsea’s January splurge concluded on deadline day with the £107m purchase of Enzo Fernandez
Arsenal were on the hook — desperate for a player of his calibre, given Mohamed Elneny’s extended injury lay-off — and at the very least, Chelsea could have weakened their rival by refusing to trade at anything less than double the price. But off across London this proven Premier League player went.
madness. A metaphor for Chelsea’s lack of grasp on the market or their own priorities. They have spent £88m to buy Mykhailo Mudryk, who has appeared only 44 times for Shakhtar Donetsk, yet are still to resolve N’Golo Kante’s contract situation.
The club’s spending of more than £300m in January is historic, unprecedented and raises so many questions about where football goes from here.
If Fernandez is worth £107m, then what on earth is the value of Declan Rice? £200m? Chelsea’s way of accounting for it all certainly will not be the same for whoever is making that decision. The winter’s big spenders have made sure of that.
Just as the wild spending of the Roman Abramovich era — £50m Fernando Torres on a helicopter from Liverpool to London in 2011 — brought UEFA Financial Fair Play rules into play, so the creative accountancy of the early Boehly period has slammed the door on anyone attempting more colorful cushioning.
Any signings made from this summer onwards will be subject to a new maximum five-year contract. The seven and a half years for Mudryk, spreading the cost, will be a thing of the past. But those new rules are unlikely to have a major effect on transfer fees.
‘I don’t see them having any negative impact on the market,’ says Liverpool University’s Kieran Maguire, pointing out that shorter contracts did not stop the £200m fees paid out by PSG for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
More significant is the potential deflationary effect in the European leagues. It will become harder for clubs to maintain the strong TV deals, which enable them to compete in the transfer market, when the dominance of the Premier League — now streamed into 188 countries — is so relentless. In Italy, 500,000 subscribers to Serie A have been lost.
Boehly has shown creative new ways to find the money to buy big-name players such in the summer and in January
Chelsea broke the British transfer record by paying £107million to sign Fernandez from Benfica
Will Chelsea be able to compete to win the competition they have invested in to such an incredible degree? They also have Benoit Badiashile and Noni Madueke on seven-and-a-half-year deals with an option for a further 12 months, and Malo Gusto and Wesley Fofana are on six-and-a-half-year contracts.
Fine if they all work out. Not so much if the club are stuck for years with the wages, the bonuses, the negotiated pay rises and the struggle to move on such highly paid players.
The one you fear for in all of this is Graham Potter — somehow still in need of a striker and yet requiring all his powers of man- management to keep everyone happy, when there are so many incomers competing for the same positions.
Chelsea also announced the long-term signing of young defender Benoit Badiashile
The American co-owner splashed over £300m on January singings as an influx of players arrived
No fewer than 37 players have come and gone from Chelsea since last summer. UEFA rules state that Potter can only name four of his eight new signings in his Champions League squad for the weeks ahead.
With results not what they might have been and the team 10 points off the top four, the manager’s position does not look as enviable as you might think. Boehly will say that all is well. That the club have been bold and imaginative. He will be confident. Gamers usually are.