A club that made history by winning its first-ever English Double in the last season, can’t yet afford to rest on its past laurels – that’s Chelsea FC. The London club, famously called the Pensioners, has miles to go if they are to match the exploits of other top English clubs. To start off, can they defend their premiership crown or even go one step further and lay their hands on an ever-elusive Champions’ League trophy? It remains to be seen.
While, Manchester United has signed a Mexican hitman and a young English defender, Liverpool has fired Rafa Benitez and exchanged an Israeli with an Englishman, Wenger is busy finding his missing pieces to regain back the English crown while Manchester City is building an army – a new set of mercenaries to be unleashed at Eastlands in the coming season. Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, on the other hand, has held on to its cards, very closely.
Let’s examine Chelsea FC’s transfer strategy, the reinforcements needed to ward off its competitors and evaluate the veracity of rumors circulating in the market.
Carlito – calmness personified
Stability at the top
While other clubs may talk about change, at CFC, it’s all about stability. Having eclipsed Jose Mourinho’s first season exploits, Carlo Ancelotti is here to stay. Rumor has it that Roman had his eyes set on the former AC Milan coach, when he’d decided to part ways with The Special One, but unfortunately the Italian was unavailable then. Now that he’s here and has the monkey off his back, the only way forward is to persist with him. He has to be given a chance to build his legacy. This calls for patience. Hopefully, the people who pull the strings at Chelsea have heard of the clichéd expression ‘Once bitten, Twice shy!’
The change of guard
At Chelsea, long gone are the days when players were signed on the basis of the whims and fancies of the men that mattered; these are days of economic restrain. The media keeps linking the West-Londoners to multi-million pound marquee signings, but to their disappointment, the club has become discerning enough to pursue talented in stead of over-hyped players.
Moreover, after the under-18 team won the FA Youth Cup, Ancelotti was quoted saying that five youngsters would be promoted to the first team. Since then, Belletti, Joe Cole, Ballack have been released, while Deco will most-definitely follow them. With the much criticized academy finally churning out quality players, the Chelsea boss can afford to help the club cut wage costs, by releasing older squad players and replacing them with talented Cobham products.
Confirmed Player Movements
Michael Ballack [OUT]
The 33-year old German captain’s contract had expired this summer and he has rejoined his first love Bayer Leverkusen.
Joe Cole [OUT]
Contract negotiations broke down between Joe Cole and Chelsea FC and the player was eventually released. Between then and now, he has signed for Liverpool on a free transfer.
Juliano Belletti [OUT]
The cult-hero JB35 has returned to Brazil, after serving out his contract.
Miroslav Stoch [OUT]
Greater things were expected of the young Slovakian winger, after he returned from a successful loan spell in Holland. But either it was due to his impatience or Ancelotti’s judgement, he was sold to Fenerbahce.
Yossi Benayoun [IN]
The Israel captain has moved to Stamford Bridge, after enduring few frustrating seasons at Anfield. Despite putting in good performances, he more often than not, found himself on the bench, under ex-Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.
THT Verdict: Yossi can be a good squad player; he’s versatile and would know his role here. Moreover, he does not have unreasonable wage demands.
Thomas Kalas [IN]
The 17-year old defender was signed from Czech Republic side Sigma Olomouc. He’s a right-sided centre-half who can even play as right-back. However, he would be loaned back for an year to gain exposure.
THT Verdict: The club has rightly changed its philosophy – it has adopted a bottom-up approach. More importance is being given to signing talented youngsters and molding them as they graduate from the youth ranks to the reserves and eventually to the first-team, rather than signing established superstars at exorbitant prices. If self-sustainability is the destination, this is the route.
The reserve-team keeper has joined the League Two club Crewe Alexandra for a two-month loan.
The young Croatian goalkeeper, who was signed by Chelsea in September 2009 and loaned back to his club, will arrive at Stamford Bridge when he turns 18 in August.
It’s unfortunate to see a player who’s been with the club since the under-9 level leave, but if Mancienne moves to a lesser club for more opportunities, one would be wrong to blame him. He has returned after a decent loan spell at Wolves, but chances of him breaking into the first-team are bleak.
Jack Cork, Scott Sinclair, Franco Di Santo, Ryan Bertrand, Slobodan Rajkovic have also returned from their respective loans and will look to impress their Italian manager. However, they have their task cut out as Nemanja Matic, Gale Kakuta, Fabio Borini, Daniel Sturridge, Patrick Van Anholt and Jeffery Bruma have overtaken them in the pecking order.
Jeffrey Bruma on loan to Wolfsburg
Apparently Steve McClaren wants to sign our young Dutch defender for a season-long loan spell. CFC shouldn’t think twice and allow Bruma to travel to Germany and gain some valuable first-team experience, if that is what Wolfsburg is offering. Stoch and Rajkovic had benefitted from playing under the guidance of former England boss last season at FC Twente; moreover, it would be better for the Chelsea starlet to play in Bundesliga, rather than moving to a lower division.
The loan-deal should not have a ‘right-to-buy’ clause, as the lad has a future in South-West London.
THT Verdict: High
Mesut Ozil coming in
Chelsea have followed this German professional footballer since his Schalke days. Two years back he moved to Werder Bremen and even then the London club had made tentative enquiries. After a scintillating display in South Africa’10, his stock has only risen, so has his suitors. With Man United, Arsenal and Real Madrid lurking, Chelsea should act now and snap up the talented 21 year old attacking midfielder.
Mesut had recently expressed his desired to move to England, and he has just an year remaining on his contract; all these are ominous signs for the English Champions to shell out 20 million pounds for acquiring his services.
THT Verdict: Medium
Come on Bremen, let him come to the Bridge. We want him here.
Romelu Lukaku being signed and loaned back to Anderlecht
There’s a young boy in Belgium whom people call The New Drogba. He’s 17 years old and is almost six and a half feet tall. His favorite club is Chelsea FC and yes, the Ivorian is his favorite player. In his youth career, he scored 68 goals in 68 games for FC Brussels and 121 goals in 88 games for Anderlecht. In the last season of Juliper Pro League, he scored 15 goals in 25 appearances.
A few days back he was spotted at Stamford Bridge in a Chelsea jersey, but the club denied any involvement and maintained that he had come for a stadium tour as a normal fan. Since then Drogba has reportedly called him and asked him to sign on for the Blues. Only thing left in this story is the actual signature, but both the club and the boy’s father want him to continue in Belgium for another year – till he completes his school. However, him being signed and loaned back to Anderlecht remains a possibility.
THT Verdict: High
Can he emulate his idol and develop into a complete centre-forward? One thing’s certain – he’s not a late bloomer like Didier!
Ashley Cole to Real Madrid
The player, media loves to hate is apparently being chased out of England and Jose Mourinho has his eyes set on him. Even though a Chelsea fan would hate to see him go, but if Real can put the money where their mouth is, CFC would indeed be in a dilemma. 30 million pounds for a 29-year old, when we have Yuri Zhirkov and Van Anholt to step into the left-back role, is indeed a lucrative business proposition.
It all depends on what Ashley Cole wants. If he wants to stay, then tell his suitors to look elsewhere; but if he has had enough with England, cash in on him.
THT Verdict: Medium
Kaka coming in
Ancelotti still admires the player to whom he was once a godfather, but he has come out and honestly expressed his stance.
“Kaka would do well for my cause and I have spoken with him on a regular basis,” he told Il Giornale. “But unfortunately he cannot come: firstly Real Madrid don’t want to sell him, and secondly we would need their consent over the transfer, and thirdly it would be a multi-million pound operation. None of these conditions exist.”
THT Verdict: Low
Torres/Ageuro/Neymar coming in
The truth is Chelsea does not have a bottomless war-chest to pursue and sign players at astronomical prices, but truth is the last thing the papers are looking for.
Fernando Torres for 50 million, Sergio Ageuro for 35 million and Neymar for 25 million would just not happen, considering the club is looking to limit expenditure. Kun would have signed for Chelsea last summer if it was not for his unreasonable wage demands.
The fact is, Shevchenko may remain the only superstar signing of this club, at least for the time being till the financial situation at the club gets better. After that particular transfer in 2006, the highest Chelsea has paid for a player was when they signed Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow for 18 million pounds.
THT Verdict: Low
We, at TheHardTackle, expect Carlo Ancelotti to have a budget of close to 30 million pounds, out of which he has already spent one-sixth on Yossi Benayoun. Assuming no other first team player leaves before the window closes, he would do well to bring in Mesut Ozil and Romelu Lukaku. That would indeed make the discerning fans happy. Amidst all this, we can’t help but endure the circus that is called “Transfer Rumors”.