Rule-bending Chelsea take transfer gamble to give Potter ultimate selection headache
MANCHESTER, England, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Languishing well below their usual league position and with Financial Fair Play regulators watching on intently, Chelsea got creative with their lavish January transfer spending, an outlay that gives coach Graham Potter the ultimate selection headache.
Premier League soccer clubs spent a record 815 million pounds ($1.00 billion) in the January transfer window, an analysis from Deloitte's Sports Business Group said on Wednesday.
The biggest spenders were Chelsea, responsible for 37% of the total, taking their overall transfer expenditure to over 500 million pounds in the eight months since new owner Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital bought the London club.
Such outlay has left many questioning how, when under Premier League FFP rules clubs are allowed to lose 105m pounds over a rolling three-year period, and UEFA rules only allow a 53m pound loss over a three-year period, Chelsea could spend so big.
While Chelsea feel no rules have been broken, they have certainly taken advantage of the state of the market, with impact of the COVID pandemic on incomes leading to a loosening of regulations.
The other striking element to these big-money deals is the length of the contracts offered to new arrivals. British record signing Enzo Fernandez penned a eight-and-a-half year deal, as did 70 million euro ($76.26 million) capture Mykhailo Mudryk.
Such uncharacteristically long contracts enable Chelsea to "amortise" the cost of the transfers over the length of the deal. On the balance sheet, Fernandez's 106.8m pounds can be spread across eight-and-a-half years.
You still have to have the money to spend in the first place, but such practice is common in accountancy. It has, however, angered those who claim the Premier League is becoming a de facto European Super League due to its spending power.
"What I'm worried about is the Premier League, and I've been worried for many years now," Spain's La Liga president Javier Tebas told a new conference this month.
"But now it's converted into a competition that has losses all year. All clubs lose money. There is no sustainability in the Premier League. The Premier League is not a financially sustainable model."
Recent departures of Tammy Abraham to AS Roma, Kurt Zouma to West Ham United, Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan and Marc Guehi to Crystal Palace, among others, have also helped give Chelsea's financial records a rosier look.
But assembling a squad full of players on lengthy deals represents a huge gamble, especially if the signings do not live up to the billing.
HOW TO FIT THEM ALL IN
It all started so well for Potter as he succeeded Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea boss in September.
The former Brighton & Hove Albion manager went unbeaten in his first nine games in charge as he looked to have resurrected the Blues' season, but seven defeats in 12 in all competitions since has left the 2021 Champions League winners 10th in the league standings.
Injuries have hampered Potter's progress, with a host of key personnel on the sidelines for a prolonged period, prompting the club to be especially active in January.
With very few players leaving to make way for eight new January arrivals, Potter's next task is to figure out how to fit everyone in, especially when the injury absentees return.
So far, as he has tried to arrest Chelsea's slump, Potter has not even been able to settle on his best formation, let alone his strongest starting XI.
Chelsea have used the most players of any Premier League team this season (29), which has included 73 changes to their starting XI, 18 more than any other side.
Some would say having so many talented players is a nice problem to have, but at a club notorious for not giving managers long to turn things around, Potter will be acutely aware at least some of his new arrivals have to hit the ground running.
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