By signing eight players for record amounts, Chelsea largely animated the winter transfer window. However, the sums, which are in addition to those already spent by the London club this summer, question the rules of financial fair play.
Millions as if it were raining! Chelsea may be in 10th place in the Premier League, but the English club still spent lavishly during the winter transfer window. With the arrival, completed in the last minutes of the transfer window, of the Argentine world champion Enzo Fernandez, the specialized press estimates the sum spent by the Blues at more than 300 million euros. A mountain of money which comes on top of the more than 300 million euros already disbursed this summer and which raises questions when club spending is supposed to be framed by the financial fair play established by UEFA.
It seems a long time ago when, in March 2022, the club worried about the lack of liquidity and when coach Thomas Tuchel joked about driving the bus himself to save money due to the sanctions aimed at his owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, in the context of the war in Ukraine.
Since then, the club has passed into the hands of American billionaire Todd Boehly who does not hesitate to take out the checkbook. Over the last two transfer windows, Chelsea have spent twice as much as their runner-up in this area: Manchester United and their 272 million euros for 7 players. What accentuates the imbalance in favor of the Premier League in the European market. By way of comparison, English clubs are responsible for 79% of spending this winter among the five major leagues.
Eight additional players settled in London in January: the Ukrainian nugget Mykhailo Mudryk (70 million + 30 million bonus), the Portuguese João Félix (11 million), the French international Benoît Badiashile (37 million), Noni Madueke ( 35 million), Malo Gusto (35 million) David Datro Fofana (12 million), Andrey Santos (12.5 million). And finally, the one who became the biggest transfer in the history of the Premier League, Enzo Fernandez (121 million).
In the direction of departures, Chelsea have collected just under 60 million euros thanks to the cumulative sales of Timo Werner to RB Leipzig, Ermerson to West Ham or Billy Gilmour to Brighton this summer, as well as that of Jorginho to Arsenal on the last day of the winter transfer window.
“I can not explain it”
This madness of grandeur raises questions. Especially in view of the rules of financial fair play introduced by UEFA in 2010. This regulation stipulates that a club cannot spend more than it earns with a tolerance of 60 million losses within three years if covered by the owner. Enough to puzzle Chelsea’s competitors in England and Europe.
“I can’t explain it. I have no idea. But if the numbers are true, then it’s impressive,” remarks Liverpool coach Jürgen Klopp quite laconically and ironically.
His counterpart on the bench at Crystal Palace, Frenchman Patrick Vieira, is more acerbic: “It’s not going to make things easier when the Premier League team go abroad to try to sign a player. It becomes really difficult because the sales team will think we have the same means.”
Amortization on long contracts
So how does Chelsea manage to stay in the nails? By circumventing the existing system and using and abusing long contracts. Long contracts of 6, 7 or even 8 years have been offered to players such as Noni Madueke (2030), Benoît Badiashile (2030) or Mykhaylo Mudryk (2031) in order to spread the payment of transfers over a longer period each season. . Concrete example with the greatest hope of Ukrainian football: attracted for nearly 100 million euros, its cost per year then falls to 11.7 million euros in the balance sheet.
As the receipts from sales are accounted for once in the year of the sale, even if the payment is spread over time, it is less hard to balance your accounts, as long as you do not pursue this politics for too long.
An accounting sleight of hand that flirts with legality and distortion of competition, while Fifa normally only authorizes contracts of a maximum of five years, unless a longer agreement remains in accordance with national laws. Which is the case in Great Britain.
“Take profit before the rules change, it happens in every industry. There’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing. It’s just that they’re doing it on a very extreme level that we don’t have never seen in football, apart from when Roman Abramovich arrived”, relativizes Kieran Maguire, economist specializing in football and host of the podcast “The price of football”, interviewed by The Evening Standard. “It can work or you can also be stuck with players who are paid a lot of money and don’t want to leave.”
However, UEFA disagree and are taking a keen interest in the Blues’ methods. According to the Daily Mail, European football’s governing body should set a five-year limit on the staggering of transfers, which would keep current contracts valid while limiting the risks of Financial Fair Play circumvention. Enough to fill the loophole exploited by Chelsea.
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