330 million euros in winter, 611 for the entire season: Chelsea FC broke all records with its transfer offensive under the new owners around Todd Boehly. How does that actually go down with your own fans? In an interview with SPOX and GOAL says David Pasztor from the Chelsea blog We Ain’t Got No History insights.
Mr Pasztor, how do you rate Chelsea’s massive transfer offensive?
David Passtor: When the new owners replaced Roman Abramovich, we suspected that the club could no longer spend untold millions on new players every year. Abramovich’s funds were virtually unlimited and his commitment to the club undisputed. He spent as much as it took to win. That the new owners are continuing like this is as surprising as it is wonderful. It shows that they are not only concerned with their financial gain. This winter transfer window has felt like the summers of 2003 and 2004 (after Abramovich’s arrival, ed.) when Chelsea were signing a new player every day. It’s exciting to see how much the new owners are investing in the club.
Are you afraid that the high transfer fees and, above all, the long contracts of the newcomers could damage the club in the long term?
Passtor: In any case. In the past five or six years, Chelsea have made many wrong decisions on the transfer market. Although players like Tiémoué Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Davide Zappacosta, Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku only got five-year contracts, they weigh heavily on the squad – not to mention the balance sheet. There is absolutely no guarantee that players like Enzo Fernández or Mykhailo Mudryk will justify their transfer fees and salaries, even if we can amortize the corresponding amounts over many years. There have been many headlines about Chelsea using this loophole. But there are also reasons why most other clubs with newcomers do not want to make commitments for such long periods. It could happen that we are stuck with players who are not convincing but not sellable for half a decade – if not longer.
Were all the transfers really necessary?
Passtor: Most do. We needed reinforcements in midfield and in defence. But now we have a much too large squad. Especially when the injured players return.
Which transfers were you personally particularly pleased about?
Passtor: Enzo Fernández is certainly at the top of the list. We all saw how well he played at the World Cup. The transfer fee is outrageously high, but hopefully he will play just as well with us for a long time. The arrival of Benoît Badiashile, the young Monaco centre-back, drew far less attention. But he has put in fantastic performances in his first three games. He could become a real gem for us.
Which transfers are you not convinced of?
Passtor: I think we signed an attacking player or two too many. We can probably use them, but maybe not all at once.
The group of investors led by the American Todd Boehly took over the reins at Chelsea in May. How do you rate the work so far, regardless of the transfers?
Passtor: In general, the new owners are wonderful. While some of their decisions were arbitrary, there is no doubt about their commitment and enthusiasm. They kept every promise they made during the bidding process. That’s all we could wish for. We see their plans being implemented both in terms of squad rebuilding and the club’s operational reorganization. We see the support for the academy and the women’s team. But results on the field have been the worst in three decades. We want to see successful football.
Do you think the owners know enough about football – or at least the right advisors?
Passtor: That’s a tricky question. They seem to know enough to appoint athletic and technical directors with the appropriate resumes (Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley, ed.). As long as you listen to them, everything is fine. In theory, direct owner interference should decrease as structures evolve.
Longtime owner Roman Abramovich had to sell the club as a result of the Ukraine war. He was always popular with the fans, do you miss him?
Passtor: I can’t answer that question for all fans. Personally, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I miss him. But I miss the full focus on winning. Our goals and measures of success are a bit more complex these days. The change of ownership has kept the situation around the club interesting and dramatic. There hasn’t been a dull day at Chelsea since 2003.
At the beginning of September, Thomas Tuchel was surprisingly released. How did you take this decision?
Passtor: Tuchel’s sacking was perhaps the new owners’ most confusing decision. Especially since it came right after the summer transfer window. Tuchel should actually be the head coach around whom we are building the future. The club made that very clear. Among other things, by spending the whole summer signing his dream players. Then, out of the blue, he was released. It later emerged that Tuchel was not getting along with the new owners behind the scenes. That only raised more questions about why he hadn’t been released sooner.
The team has not developed further under Tuchel’s successor Graham Potter. Chelsea are currently in ninth place, ten points behind the Champions League starting places.
Passtor: Unfortunately, Potter has not yet shown why the owners have placed and continue to place so much trust in him. We hope that as the squad rebuilds with all these fantastic young players, he develops into a world-class coach. Actually, we should trust the process. But so far we don’t see what this process is exactly – at least in terms of football. That makes it very difficult to trust.
Is Potter already up for grabs with the new owners?
Passtor: Potter enjoys more support from the club than any other Chelsea manager in living memory. So it is to be hoped that in the end he will get the hang of things and our results will improve. This season seems to be a complete letdown. But we’re sure to see improvements soon, especially after so much has been spent on transfers.