January may be the time to bargain, but not in west London.
Chelsea FC spent more in the January transfer window than all clubs in La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 combined. According to Transfermarkt, Chelsea have spent around $180 million and could be spending more.
What is surprising is not how much Chelsea spent, but who they spent it on.
Since Todd Burley bought Chelsea from sanctioned oligarch Roman Abramovich last May, he has spent almost $5 billion on new players.
The club’s form has slipped this season to the point where reaching the Champions League is next to impossible. But despite that, most January arrivals aren’t so-called “panic signings.”
The only signing that could have an immediate impact is João Felix, who arrives on loan from Atletico Madrid for a reported fee of around $11 million. This transfer fee may seem expensive, but if calculated based on five seasons, it is still less than Atletico Madrid’s purchase of him.
Felix made an immediate impact on his debut as the best Chelsea player on the pitch before he was sent off for a wild tackle, costing Chelsea more than $1.5 million on his three-match ban alone.
Chelsea’s other signings clearly haven’t been bought for what they’ve done in their careers. The club’s most expensive acquisition, Ukrainian winger Mykhalyo Mudryk, who could cost more than $100 million if he fulfills his potential, has played just 65 professional games at club level, mainly in a Ukrainian league weakened by the departure of foreign stars middle.
21-year-old French defender Benoit Badiyahir Indeed three seasons of experience in Monaco. But Noni Madueke has just over 2,000 minutes of Eredivisie experience at PSV Eindhoven. Brazil’s Andre Santos and Ivorian striker David Datro Fofana also played less than a season of senior football in relatively weaker leagues.
The average age of these signings is about 20 years old, and while Mudryk, Badeshile and Madueke may become regulars this season, all of these players have the future in mind.
Before Burleigh arrived, Chelsea had generally only spent money on young players provided they had proven themselves abroad, such as Havertz, who was already one of the Bundesliga’s standout players before his move to Stamford Bridge.
Boehly’s approach is different, from last summer’s signing Carney Chuquimeka Signed from Aston Villa for a whopping $25 million. Chukwuemeka has played less than 500 minutes in the Premier League.
This shift in spending partly explains why Chelsea have been able to spend so much this season without breaching financial fair play rules. Mudryk’s fees are spread over an extremely long contract of seven and a half years, with an option for a further year, and Relatively low wages for Ukrainians, about $120,000 a week, which means his overall cost to Chelsea per year is not too high. Other signings have also signed Badiashile to a long-term seven-and-a-half-year contract.
Chelsea’s spending over the past few seasons has been partly offset by the sale of former youth players such as Tammy Abraham to Roma or Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan, giving them more leeway with regard to FFP rules.
Such spending could also be a warning to other clubs and their potential buyers. With speculation that Liverpool and Manchester United could be sold, Boly’s spending has effectively raised the bar for entry, telling potential buyers that once the clubs are bought, they will have to spend hundreds of millions to reach their goals. The pinnacle of English football.
By buying all of their most promising young players, Chelsea are also making it harder for their opponents to strengthen their squads in the coming years.
But despite the potential of Chelsea’s new arrivals this winter, they are also inexperienced, so the chances of any one of them failing is high. They don’t need all of their January signings to be world-class, but they’re still betting $100 million-plus on their ability to judge a player’s potential based on minimal playing time.
Failing that, it may be difficult to move these players on long-term contracts, which could become a burden on Chelsea’s neck for years to come. If it works, it could propel Chelsea to the top of English football.