I’ve always thought the whole Transfer Deadline Day craze, so amusingly overhyped by Sky Sports News with their yellow garb and helplessly photo-bombed reporters, is perhaps a little unfounded. Apart from that mental evening when we signed Fernando Torres and David Luiz and also the one where we didn’t sign Robinho, they tend to be pretty dull, necessarily drawn-out affairs. It’s senseless though to appraise a transfer window based on its ‘deadline day’, it would also be a shame if we were to allow Wednesday night’s frustrating result to overshadow the really impressive work done by Chelsea in the market this month.
While Arsenal were failing to capitalise on their first genuine opportunity in years to compete in a title race until the final weeks; and while Man City were unsurprisingly unsuccessful in their attempt to procure Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala, late on from FC Porto (probably the most notoriously awkward selling club in Europe), we very nicely went about adding to what Michael Emenalo ominously referred to last week as our ‘reservoir of developing talent’, in addition to forming a far more balanced first team and making a sizable profit in the process. Since the very first announcements were made regarding UEFA’s FFP directives, Chelsea have been singled out as, certainly one of, if not the most likely victim of the looming fiscal strictures. Right now however, thanks to some incredible recruitment work and our rather protrusive use of the loan system, we look as qualified as any club in the country to compete successfully over the next ten years, whilst spending within our means.
Transfer Window Review:
Sales – Few failed to make the observation at the beginning of the season, when contemplating this Chelsea squad, that as far as creative attacking midfielders were concerned, we were pretty well stocked up. Not many will have anticipated Mourinho being able to satisfy all six of our options with the playing-time they will have wanted (or deserved), though surely even less will have predicted Juan Mata to have been the first name to give way – even though, looking back, the signs were there from the beginning. (We’ve discussed Juan Mata enough at this stage, so we’ll leave it there).
In the case of our other major departure however, though similar in situation and albeit smaller in size than the Mata deal, I think Kevin De Bruyne’s sale has been underplayed. Far more so than with Matic and Danny Sturridge and even with a young Arjen Robben, in the case of the Belgian I think we’ve willingly let go of a potentially world-class young player; I think it’s a real shame we couldn’t find a place for him. It’s been pointed out that £18m is a lot to receive for an unused player of De Bruyne’s profile, which is true, but at the same time I think it’s clear that Wolfsburg have got their money’s worth and will most likely make a decent profit, selling the player to one of Europe’s super-clubs in a few years. Michael Essien was the third player to leave, on a free transfer to Milan. A good move I think for a player whose ability to contribute to this side had sadly diminished, but whose experience and quality could be extremely useful to a Milan side in huge trouble and struggling to rebuild.
Purchases – Overall I think our three main signings this month were very good pieces of business, but each one for different reasons. Nemanja Matic is the mobile and powerful defensive midfielder we’ve been missing for a long time and who improves the team immediately. Mohamed Salah provides a useful balance to our attack and brings with him the potential to be tailored perfectly to fit this intense and direct system being worked towards. And while Kurt Zouma may be some way off the first team at the moment, his signing means, with respect to young players like Tomas Kalas and Kenneth Omeruo, we finally have a young centre half on the books with the genuine potential to replace John Terry. The Frenchman has been earmarked a future captain for his country and, like his compatriot and peer Raphael Varane, seems to have all the attributes to become one of the best of his generation. Some has suggested a summer sale of David Luiz may make room in the squad for Zouma this summer; I think he’s more likely to spend next season on loan as well however, before taking Terry’s place the summer after. We’ll have to see.
It’s been said several times this month that Chelsea ‘have to sell to buy’. This isn’t necessarily a false statement, but I think it’s one that paints a deceptive picture of our situation. The usual implication of having to sell to buy, involves losing important first team players to bring in a hopefully more important player – a dilemma clearly not likely to be facing ourselves anytime soon. The speed and regularity with which Chelsea use the loan system makes it easy to lose track of just how much young talent actually belongs to club. When you stop and add it all up, you’ll see that a shortage of funds with which to improve the current first team isn’t something any of us need to be losing sleep over. The following is a list of, in my opinion, very conservative estimates of potential value:
Romelu Lukaku – Frightening potential and proven PL quality at 20. (£25m)
Thibaut Courtois – Likely to be one of the world’s top three keepers for the next decade. (£25m)
Kurt Zouma – Unlikely to be sold at any point but could be worth twice what we’ve paid before long (£20m)
Bertrand Traore – Difficult to judge at this stage but showed some outrageous skill in pre-season. Could be incredible. (£10m at least)
Lucas Piazon – Top scorer for Vitesse this season who are challenging Ajax & Twente for the title (£10m)
Ryan Bertrand – One of the best young full backs in the country, would walk into Liverpool or Spurs’ first team (£10m)
Thorgan Hazard – The best player in the Belgian league this and last season, developing into a fine young playmaker. (£8m)
Marko Marin – Loved by Sevilla fans, far more suited to the Spanish game (£7m)
Victor Moses – Above his level at Liverpool but could be excellent for any lower league side (£6m)
Oriol Romeu – Technically sound, versatile player doing well at Valencia (who’ve just won at the Camp Nou) (£6m)
Christian Cuevas and Wallace – Two talented young full-backs/wingers who were excellent in South America but currently struggling on loan. Still very young (£10m together)
Josh McEachran & Nathaniel Chalobah – Two hugely talented young Englishmen, the kind of which Southampton are proving can be useful at PL level (£15m together)
Youth Team Members – Whether any of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Islam Feruz, Lewis Baker, Andreas Christensen, Nathan Ake, Isaiah Brown and co manage to get to the Chelsea first team looks debatable, collectively they must be worth a few quid to a lot of clubs in England however (£15m collectively)
When you add this all up and realise the club has got at least £150m worth of talent to either recall or sell as we look to a put side together over the next few years, then the overall picture looks rather positive. Our opponents on Monday night might have a fantastic squad, full of world-class players in their prime, but in a few years when Zabaleta, Kompany, Toure, Silva and Fernandinho are all past their best years and Chelsea’s new core group are just entering theirs, the quality of work that we’ve been doing in these past few transfer windows will really begin to show. As City will reach a similar stage to where we were in 2010/11, with an aging group of players and a tired formula, only they won’t have the same freedom to spend their way out of the problem which we’ve enjoyed until now.
Defeat on Monday, which, let’s be honest, can’t exactly be described as improbable, would most likely leave us too far behind Pellegrini’s men for the league this time around. A poor result at the Etihad shouldn’t overshadow another very successful, meticulously thought through transfer window, however. It’s this sort of work that means City’s days of domination in English football are numbered, for sure.