Todd Boehly’s Chelsea reality is starting to hit home. If the 12th-placed finish – nine lower than where he took over the club in May 2022 – didn’t do it, two permanent managers and one interim boss might have let it down. It is the sheer volume of transfers to be made this summer that perhaps really shows how wrong things have gone.
Despite attempts to revamp the group last year after the loss of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, the Boehly-Clearlake administration has more work to do now than they did after the takeover. Considering that £600 million ($768 million) has been spent in that time, it is a damning state of affairs.
There are still new signings to be made, not just exits. Every area of the course has now been added as well, but holes still appear. At least one player has been signed per position, but there is no favored team to rely on. Having brought in eight players mid-season, added to the seven additions made over the summer, the future for many is far from clear.
It is not only those who have slowly run down contracts both until June 2023, but also 2024, who face the axe. Loan deals for Joao Felix and Denis Zakaria were not fruitful enough to consider another year on the books. After just over 12 months at the helm, the potential American gold mine of interconnection and marketing for the owners and Christian Pulisic is also coming to a hasty end.
Little of the promised changes have been seen on the field, with senior players often favored over the younger recruits. Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment could change a lot of this with an important summer ahead for the club, but it will require a change of heart from the owners. Not from themselves, but the former regime.
While Roman Abramovich and his financially savvy director Marina Granovskaia tended to wait for players, extracting every ounce of pocket money in deals and continuing loans or extensions, Boehly has already begun to sanction a more heavy-handed approach.
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Then club-record signing Romelu Lukaku was loaned out in the first summer of his transfer, and most ties were undoubtedly cut. Marcos Alonso also left under the new structure. Their decision to let Timo Werner leave for a cut price was another that would be hard to see happen under Abramovich.
The question was whether such authority would be possible with players that Boehly-Clearlake had bought themselves. The choice to move on from Graham Potter so soon after spending over £20m ($24m) to free him from Brighton is proof that won’t be a problem for them.
The savvy businessmen seem willing to make brutal money decisions, even at the cost of losing face and staring embarrassment in the eye. Now it looks set to continue.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was an unequivocal failure of a transfer. Three goals for £15 million ($19.2 million) in deadline day fees. One of them in the league and none since October, six months of almost enough exile from the first team later and the 33-year-old is ready to leave.
By hook or by crook he will not be at Chelsea next season and Pochettino does not need to work with a player who has no future at Stamford Bridge. Saudi investment in the Pro League offers a lifeline and a way out for both parties. Accepting the mistake and moving on is an approach necessary for a summer of quick and general releases, Aubameyang is just the beginning.
Another who could follow him out the door after less than 12 months is Marc Cucurella. His first season in London has potentially been the biggest proportional disappointment of all the arrivals from last summer. For £62 million ($79.4 million), Chelsea signed one of the league’s best left-backs, but have so far been without much sign of that player.
He has lacked confidence throughout his tenure and has never really put together a sustained run of form that justified his huge price tag. As one of the early beneficiaries of Chelsea’s siege at Brighton, Cucurella stands as a picture of total failure for ownership to shyly stand firm.
He is a player who so far encapsulates the misjudgment, overpayment and lack of planning that has plagued Boehly’s first season in charge of the club. With Newcastle a reported destination for the 24-year-old, Chelsea would be wise to consider any kind of offer they receive. The very fact that they welcome bids is once again evidence of an open sales mindset, especially for the new contracts.
Alongside Cucurella as a player being considered for an early departure is Kalidou Koulibaly. Another defensive addition who has been unable to match his form elsewhere, the 31-year-old is one of many players in the midst of talks between Chelsea and Inter. They are said to want a return on investment of £35m ($44.8m) and will not consider loans.
After once again being unable to match the high levels of quality he displayed at Napoli for most of the last decade, the Blues are now considering a quick change of heart after making him one of their first signings last summer . On a four-year deal and with three of those left, it’s even more unfortunate study material for the mistakes made, but also a positive shift in mindset for the owners, who are at least trying to be proactive with their sales.
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