The days of Chelsea’s win/loss ratio in the transfer market swaying in a positive direction feels like a different world, compared to any point relatively recently.
Although there have been some impactful arrivals over the last five years, the list of those that did not work out continues to grow following the embarrassment of Romelu Lukaku’s return on loan to Inter Milan.
But if we do track back to one window in particular, we can gauge how the transfer landscape has evolved and where Todd Boehly needs to aim for in the coming years as he rebuilds the club’s hierarchy and strategy.
It is the summer of 2014, and Chelsea in a similar fashion to 2022 were coming off the back of a third-place finish in the Premier League. Though the defining difference was a higher points tally and only trailing the champions Manchester City by five points.
Jose Mourinho had returned the previous summer and quickly re-established the title-challenging formula he had built so successfully in his first reign. In the end, Chelsea’s issue in their title charge was dropping points to inferior opposition, remaining undefeated against the top four.
The bulk of the squad Mourinho had was solid. Unlike what Bohely and Thomas Tuchel are having to do right now, with big players departing and several positions to fill, the mission statement was clear and concise for Mourinho, Chelsea needed a talismanic striker and a creative midfielder.
The previous January it was already clear who that striker would be, as Chelsea activated a release clause in the snarling and fearsome Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid who would hit over 30 goals for the La Liga champions.
By the end of May, a deal had already been agreed, and although it took until mid-July for Costa’s arrival to be confirmed, it would prove a game-changing addition. But the other half of that wishlist brought with it an equally transformative talent.
With Cesc Fabregas’ time at Camp Nou with Barcelona coming to an end, Chelsea and Mourinho again jumped at an opportunity to recruit a motivated and highly productive player. Few could have guessed how telepathic Costa and Fabregas would become instantly for Chelsea, but both soo precisely filled a talent gap that was lacking.
It is quite staggering to reflect that both the deals cost under £50m (£35m for Costa, £30m for Fabregas) an almost impossibility eight years later. Given the value Chelsea has got recently from some players over £50m compared to the value Costa and Fabregas gave to two title-winning seasons, you could easily argue they should cost close to £100m right now.
In addition to those two, Thibaut Courtois returned from his three-year loan at Atletico to become Mourinho’s first-choice goalkeeper, a long-term deal that ensured a ready-made successor to the iconic Petr Cech. And although Courtois’ reputation amongst supporters was soured by his toxic exit in 2018, his influence and value between 2014–2017 was undeniable.
There was a late signing for Loic Remy from Newcastle United as a backup to Costa and the return of a club legend in Didier Drogba to add some experience. Both players contributed big moments throughout the dominant season when needed, again adding quick value to the squad.
Filipe Luis remains the one blot on that window, bought in with Costa from Diego Simeone’s title-winners to replace the departing Ashley Cole but was sold back to La Liga 12 months later, only making 15 Premier League appearances and gaining under 1000 minutes. Though little regret was had over that failure given the longevity of Cesar Azpilicueta, who many more players would struggle to compete with in defence.
The high success of the 2014 summer transfer window is something Chelsea should be aiming to replicate in the coming years, the sad thing to reflect is how far away the club has got from that point since.