Chelsea pushed transfer loophole too far – but they could still benefit
Chelsea use longer deal to exploit transfer-limit loophole
It was one transfer too far for Chelsea.
As the Stamford Bridge club confirmed they had beaten Arsenal to the signature of Ukrainian star Mykhailo Mudryk, their biggest rivals across European football had to act.
It wasn’t that they were jealous of Chelsea’s spending power continuing after new owner Todd Boehly bought the club from Roman Abramovich last year.
No, this was a story of an innovative rewriting of the game’s rule book – and Chelsea did it in the full view of their rivals.
UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules have appeared to lack any teeth since the oil-rich clubs Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City pushed them to breaking point.
Yet the notion that Chelsea could spend the best part of half a billion pounds in less than a year, and still claim to be with FFP boundaries, was unfathomable.
“Interesting how they are doing this,” was the verdict of Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp – and he was not alone in alerting football authorities to the loophole Boehly and Chelsea were exploiting.
The west London club didn’t try to hide the reality that they had handed Mudryk and eight-and-a-half-year contract, with the length of that agreement no coincidence.
Mudryk’s deal followed a pattern followed for all the players the Blues have signed in recent months, and these extended contracts were a defined ploy to get around FFP restrictions.
Marc Cucurella, Carney Chukwuemeka, Cesare Casadei and David Datro Fofana committed for six years, Wesley Fofana for seven years, Benoit Badiashile seven-and-a-half-years.
The extended contracts handed to new arrivals have allowed Chelsea to spread the cost of the transfers over the course of those contracts, so the club’s accounts will suggest Mudryk is costing just £10 million a year.
This approach has allowed Chelsea to navigate FFP rules for their own benefit and sparked a quick change in the transfer structure of the European game.
Current UEFA rules limit clubs to offering five-year contracts, unless the law in that individual country permits anything longer.
With no rules on the subject in Britain, Chelsea have made the most of the freedom afforded to them.
Now UEFA are looking to ensure that player transfer fees cannot be spread over any more than five years, with that amendment likely to be in place by next summer.
Of course, this bold ploy could backfire on Chelsea if some of their arrivals fail to deliver success, with 22-year-old Mudryk now sitting on a contract that will not expire until 2031.
If he fails to develop into the superstar Boehly and his decision-makers believe he could be, Chelsea will be paying his £100,000-a-week salary long after his usefulness has expired.
The alternative version of this story sees Mudryk living up to his billing and becoming one of the most valuable assets in world football, with Chelsea’s investment then looking shrewd as they will have him on an extended contract.
It is a risky strategy that could only be contemplated by owners who have the financial firepower to lose hundreds of millions in the coming years – and their spending looks certain to continue.
Chelsea have not ruled out making more signings before those rules are tightened up, yet it is Arsenal who are likely to be making the biggest moves ahead of Tuesday’s transfer deadline.
After missing out on the deal to sign Mudryk, the Premier League title leaders and favourites have signed Leandro Trossard from Brighton and he caught the eye in Friday night’s FA Cup clash with Manchester City.
Now Arsenal are pushing to seal a second signing from Brighton, with their £60 million bid for Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo rejected on Friday.
As the Mudryk transfer highlighted, Arsenal will not be drawn into bidding wars in a bid to land their top targets – and they will walk away from the Caicedo deal if they feel Brighton’s valuation is too high.
Arsenal’s eagerness to sign a striker appears to have been diluted by the prospect of Gabriel Jesus returning to action sooner than expected and the lack of forwards on the market who meet the standards demanded by boss Mikel Arteta.
Liverpool fans hoping for a big-money signing in the final days of the transfer window are likely to be disappointed, with their focus fixed on signing Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham this summer.
Manchester United are also unlikely to splash the cash ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, with the proposed sale of the club ensuring the current owners are reluctant to plough money into this month’s transfer push.
Meanwhile, Tottenham and Newcastle are likely to be active in the final rush to the finish line at the end of January, with Everton’s forward Anthony Gordon expected to join the latter imminently.
Whatever transfer deals get over the line in the final days of the transfer window, nothing will match the lavish spending Chelsea have completed since the end of last season.
It’s an investment that will pile the pressure on Blues manager Graham Potter to deliver success as his side prepare to return to Premier League action against London rivals Fulham next Friday.
NOT EVERY BIG DEAL DELIVERS
THE most expensive transfer deals in Premier League history tell a sorry tale - with most of the big-money moves failing to deliver results. Here are the most expensive transfers in the history of the English game and not one of them can be hailed as a big success. JACK GREALISH (Aston Villa to Manchester City – £100million) The biggest transfer in Premier League history has brought mixed results, with Grealish struggling to live up to his billing at City. ROMELU LUKAKU (Inter Milan to Chelsea – £97.5million) The Belgian striker arrived for a second spell at Chelsea amid a fanfare of publicity, but he flopped badly and was sent out on loan after just one season. PAUL POGBA (Juventus to Manchester United – £93.5 million) Another player who made a return to a former club in a mega-money move – and like Lukaku, he was a woeful waste of money before he left on a free transfer. MYKHAILO MUDRYK (Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea – £88million) This young Ukrainian was linked with a move to Arsenal before sealing a mega-money switch to Chelsea earlier this month. ANTONY (Ajax to Manchester United – £82million) United initially bid around £50 million for this attacking talent, but he ended up costing so much more last summer and is still trying to prove his worth. HARRY MAGUIRE (Leicester to Manchester United – £80 million) Another big-money signing who has run into trouble at United, Maguire’s collapse in form means his future at the club is uncertain
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