How did Chelsea’s summer go?
Another summer transfer window is over. For Chelsea, it was a pretty eventful one both in terms of the incomings and outgoings. Certainly, there were a vast number of players departing either on loan or permanently and three incomings, with the club trying to prioritize quality over quantity once again in this regard. To have the process of elaboration easier, I have decided to go through the analysis of outgoings and incomings separately, with a view to giving a personal perspective on the key moves, in addition to stating the details of the transfers.
As initially stated above, Chelsea’s board were very active in offloading a lot of players who were either redundant in the first team or youngsters, academy products who were keen to have some more game-time under their belts. Among the most prolific departures, we can mention Olivier Giroud going to AC Milan for a quoted sum of 900,000 pounds after three and a half years as a ‘’Blue’’ and Tammy Abraham leaving the club where he started everything in order to be put under the orders of a former Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, at AS Roma, with the fee reportedly being 36,000,000 pounds.
A complicated, but finally materialized move was the one of Kurt Zouma at West Ham. The French international was a subject of a lot of rumors and exclusive news during July and August, reportedly blocking Jules Kounde’s switch to Chelsea due to his reluctance to live abroad. In the meantime, his name was often linked with possible moves to Tottenham, Everton or even Roma, but ‘’The Hammers’’ managed to ultimately secure his services after a mentioned late scare of a medical problem. Chelsea collected around 30 millions of pounds from Zouma’s move towards the English capital.
Two key aspects of Chelsea’s business this summer were the massive clear-out of the so-called ‘’deadwood’’ players, a pejorative epithet aimed at seniors not good enough for a place in first-team squad and the exodus of a considerable number of academy guys. Thus,Victor Moses, Davide Zappacosta and Ike Ugbo left the club permanently to join Spartak Moscow (4,500,000 pounds), Atalanta (8,100,000 pounds) and Genk (3,150,000 pounds) respectively. In addition to it, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Kenedy, Michy Batshuayi and Emerson departed on loan after renewing their contracts to AC Milan, Flamengo and Besiktas respectively, whereas Danny Drinkwater and Baba Rahman changed the league, but not the country, as they both went to Reading in Championship. Despite struggling to cut ties with these players for good, the hierarchy managed to put option-to-buy clauses for any of their new clubs, in case they see it reasonable to keep them for a long-term period.
Anyhow, the most intriguing topic of discussion in the ‘’outgoings section’’ is the massive offloading of the young academy products. A highly-exciting prospect in Tino Livramento moved 70 miles south-west of London to join Southampton on a five-year deal for a quoted sum of 5 million pounds. ‘’The Blues’’ have successfully inserted buy-back clause for the right-back, but there is no absolute clarity on the figure itself, although it is understood that it may vary from 25 to 40 million pounds. Furthermore, Marc Guehi, who enjoyed a bright loan spell at Swansea last season, is now at the heart of Crystal Palace’s defense, after securing a somewhat unexpected move across the capital for around 20 million pounds. A host of other academy guys decided to seek new challenges with a view to having more game-time under their belts. In this way, midfielder Lewis Bate signed for Leeds United, Dynel Simeu for Southampton and Luke McCormick to AFC Wimbledon.
It’s worth mentioning the one-year dry loan spells three pretty eye-catching youngsters will profit from for their further developments: Billy Gilmour, the impressively-matured no.6, became a new Norwich City player earlier this summer. Levi Colwill, the 18 year-old center-back, signed for Huddersfield Town, Ethan Ampadu for Venezia on deadline day, whereas Armando Broja, the 19 year-old Albanian centre-forward who scored a late winning goal for his national team against Hungary a few weeks ago, followed Livramento’s steps by joining the Saints in mid-August.
PERSONAL OPINION (OUTGOINGS):
From my own perspective, club’s board did generally well in this direction. The sums for which many players were sold were justified and could end up being positively sizeable in the near future. In addition, it is hugely important in my eyes not to have the sense of regret about the departures of the young players due to the buy-back clauses inserted. So, considering that more than 130 million pounds were allocated only because of the departures aforementioned and above all, without spoiling first-team’s overall potential, I feel quite decent business was done. The only downside I can think about is the blocked loan move for CallumHudson-Odoi. At Dortmund he could have benefited a lot in his preferred, natural position as a left-winger and eventually could have come back as a sharper player overall. However, as I said before, there is no place for regret and the hierarchy managed to materialize transfers which contributed to the profit the club made at the end of this window.
Chelsea signed three new players this window, starting with the addition of Willy Caballero’s replacement (The Argentine goalkeeper left the club at the end of his contract in June), Marcus Bettinelli. The 29 year-old, who played at the Riverside last season, signed a two-year contract with the Blues and through his presence he counts as a homegrown player. 7 years ago, Bettinelli could have joined Chelsea as a 3rdchoice keeper, but the move didn’t happen at the time.
The biggest and hottest topic of the summer, though, was the striker one, which was topped off by the exciting and much-anticipated return of RomeluLukaku on 12th August, just one day after Chelsea triumphed in the UEFA Super Cup final against Villarreal. The illustrious forward’s comeback to his club of dreams was initially seen as ‘’highly unlikely’’, mainly as a result of striker’s easy and smooth adaptation in Italy both on a personal and professional level. A lot of reporters persisted on the scenario that even Antonio Conte’s exit from the current Italian champions, just one week after winning ‘’The Scudetto’’, wouldn’t enable such an apparently complicated move, although Lukaku’s position of possibly leaving Inter Milan only for Chelsea was well-known for a long time.
The dynamics of the big-money transfer gathered pace during the last few days of July, when Chelsea decided it was pointless to keep waiting for Borussia Dortmund to soften their stubbornness regarding the stratospheric asking price of 150-175 millions of euro they kept on asking for Erling Haaland. In this manner, Chelsea’s board, aware of Inter Milan financial difficulties, tried to test the waters with a 100 millions of euro offer, which was turned down by their counterparts at the hierarchy of the Milan club. This rejection, instead of creating a ‘’hold-brakes’’ effect, urged Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea’s chief executive, to step on the gas instead. This remarkable transfer turned into reality when Inter Milan accepted a 115 million euro offer (105m + either Marcos Alonso or Davide Zappacostawas also refused), after being informed by the player himself of his desire to come back to West London, in order to complete his unfinished business with the Champions of Europe.
The last couple of weeks of the window were filled with a sort of tension created by the uncertainty whether there would be more additions in the first-team or not. Jules Kounde, Sevilla’s centre-back, was intensively linked with a switch to the European Champions, with a lot of sources claiming that he had agreed the personal terms until 2026. The stumbling block, though, came from Sevilla’s side. The Andalusian club were thought to have shown a bizarre change of behavior after Chelsea sold Kurt Zouma, which gave them a sly reason to raise their asking price for the Frenchman, close to his release clause of 80 million euros. Kounde is said to have felt furiously irritated with Monchi, Sevilla’s sporting director, in particular. It remains to be seen if Chelsea will come back for 22 year-old’s services in January.
This tense feeling would reach sweating drama levels on deadline day, when Chelsea announced the signing of Atletico Madrid midfielder, Saul Niguez, who joined the London giants for a loan fee of 5 millions of euro with an option to buy for 35-40 millions next summer. Atletico’s will to include an obligation and not an option for the Spanish international was a meaningful obstacle, thus it helped carve the image of a relatively short, but nonetheless mentally tiring transfer mini-saga, as the reports of a breakthrough in negotiations were spread only by 5 PM BST on the 31st of August. However, the twists and turns of this rollercoaster weren’t over until after midnight, when the dominoes finally fell and the late scare of a probable collapse in the deals disappeared: Saul became a Blue, Antoine Griezmann returned to Atletico and Luuk De Jongjoined Barcelona from Sevilla.
PERSONAL OPINION: (INCOMINGS):
For obvious reasons, I am not including Bettinelli here and the main point of the talk will be my perspective on Lukaku’s signing and what he can provide to us in the present and future. First and foremost, I have been one of the earliest supporters of the thesis that Romeluwould be more beneficial to the club in the long-term than Haaland. To elaborate furthermore, I would like to point out that in these cases, when you have to do with top players, it’s fair to make a face-to-face, transparent, comprehensive comparison. This means taking into consideration every crucial aspect which surrounds the prospect of signing one player instead of the other.
• Total fee? Lukaku (115 million euros compared to 150-175 million pounds Dortmund werepersistently asking for their no.9).
• Agent fees? Lukaku (It’s must be great for a playerto have an agent who works in backstage and not somebody who is more recognized worldwide (in notorious fashion) than his own clients.)
• Long-term commitment? Lukaku (Lukaku returns to the club he dreamt creating a legacy for since he was an academy player at Anderlecht, while Haaland, driven by his money-hungry agent, could have created media pressure and squad disharmony by trying to use the club as a stepping stone with a view to fulfilling his extravagant wage demands. – Bild reported during the last days of the transfer window that Raiola seeked a 50 million euros per-year wage for his Norwegian client.)
• The less flamboyant profile? Lukaku (No strange interviews, no luxury-life photos; being anti-egocentric is key to adapting quickly into a new environment, especially when this environment is a football club with the ambition to win everything.)
• Age? Haaland (This is obvious on paper, although many examples are promoting the practical knowledge of age being just a number. ThiagoSilva, for instance.)
• Mentality? More or less equal in my opinion. (Both are eager to thrive whenever the opportunity arises.)
• Premier League experience? Lukaku (Financial factors aside, this is possibly the most important reason why I was in favor of Romelu’s return from the beginning. No one is doubting Haaland’s raw talent and aggression, but Lukaku provides some specific attributes, bearing in mind Premier League’s extra-high intensity: An invaluable experience, his immense physical attributes, the capability to boost the attack with his potential to play comfortably with both the back to the opposition goal and the face towards it when needed, work off-the-ball, link-up in tight areas, the ability to drop in and help the team-mates find a quality passing option between the lines or even create space for them to runs into the gaps he opens through holding defenders off etc.
So, in conclusion, I want to ensure everyone reading this that this confrontation of the main topics of discussion I aimed to make was in no way an attempt to discredit Haaland’s on the pitch qualities. Both of them are top players, in their own way, but through the explanation made above, I wanted to elaborate on why Lukaku was always my first choice and imply the reasons why some kind of discourses on ‘’the resale value’’ matter are irrational and illegitimate.
Finally, I would like to express my delight on signing Saul. He represents an experienced profile who has managed to massively contribute for Atletico Madrid over the years by showing an admirable versatility in terms of positional discipline. It’s fair to say his last two years haven’t been as he had wished, mainly due to being forced to play in a left-wing role, but a return to his preferred no.8 role could revive his package of attributes, including defensive awareness, communicating skills during the games and the eye for direct contributions through goals and assists. Hopefully it goes as planned and he convinces both his admirers and critics to deservedly remain at the club beyond this season.