There was always a gnawing sense this day would come for Chelsea. A feeling that the stockpile of players on the club’s books would cause a big problem. And so it has come to pass.
The summer transfer window has not been an easy one for the Blues. Players have been moved out the door, but they’ve largely been talented academy graduates – such as Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi, and Tino Livramento – intent on making the most of their careers.
Part of the reason for Chelsea‘s sluggishness in the market is that head coach Thomas Tuchel wanted to assess the raft of returning loanees. And the German, fresh from guiding the Blues to the Champions League, was granted that request and has spent the past month evaluating and analysing his large squad.
Opinions have been formed and decisions made. Now Chelsea are in a battle against the clock.
In three weeks, the transfer window will close. Twenty-one days is what Chelsea have to try to move on almost as many players. Even for an astute negotiator like Marina Granovskaia, that is some challenge.
Across Europe, the transfer market is depressed. Every single club has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and big deals are simply not being done at scale. In La Liga, for instance, just three transfers north of €10million have been completed so far this summer.
Budgets are tight, even for the biggest of European giants; it’s why Barcelona have had to part company with their greatest-ever player, Lionel Messi.
The huge Premier League broadcast contracts have insulted English top-flight clubs to a large extent. It’s partly how Chelsea have been able to spend close to £100m on Romelu Lukaku and why they’re working on a deal for Jules Kounde, who may cost in excess of £50m.
Yet even within the Premier League, there’s hesitancy. Gambles will not be taken, they can’t afford to be. Clubs need as close to guarantees as possible. That is why Chelsea are in a tough spot.
Over the last five years, the Blues have spent huge money on players and handed them lucrative contracts. Danny Drinkwater, for instance, hasn’t played a competitive game for Chelsea since the 2017/18 campaign and yet reportedly earns in excess of £100,000 a week before tax.
Drinkwater still has a year remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge. He will know that no club will match his current salary, so why move away? It’s not in the midfielder’s interests, he is entitled to the money owed to him. And that will be the case throughout the squad.
In years past, Chelsea may have been lucky enough to find a club willing to cover the wages of their out-of-favour players. That is less likely this summer. So what’s next for the likes of Davide Zappacosta, Baba Rahman, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Ross Barkley, Michy Batshuayi, and a host of others?
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Only Granovskaia can answer that question. Either Chelsea sell these players at a reduced cost – an option Roman Abramovich’s most-trusted lieutenant will not find appealing – or they stay at Cobham and work in the shadows until the expiration of their contracts. Granovskaia won’t like that possibility either.
Something will have to give, however. Chelsea will have to take a hit in some fashion. It will be painful, but maybe a lesson will be learned. One that benefits the club in the long term.