Chelsea has already spent just under 500 million euros on new players this season. And the end of the buying frenzy is not yet in sight. How can the English club spend so much money without breaking Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules? Noni Madueke is the latest signing to pose in the Chelsea shirt. “I can’t wait for my first game. I’m curious what the future will bring and how the owner’s vision will turn out,” said the attacker who came over from PSV. Cost: at least 35 million euros for an injury-prone player who still has to prove himself at the highest level.
Todd Boehly, part owner of Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA), doesn’t care about a million more or less. The American billionaire took over Chelsea in May last year for 5 billion euros from Roman Abramovich. The Russian businessman had to part with ‘The Blues’ after almost two decades because of the war in Ukraine. Boehly has an extreme spending pattern that dwarfs the purchasing power of its predecessor. Last summer Chelsea bought eight players for around 282 million euros. This winter, the Londoners paid at least 178 million euros for six players. By way of comparison, all clubs in Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and La Liga collectively spent only 90 million euros in January.
The most notable and most expensive acquisition was Mykhailo Mudryk. The 22-year-old winger was taken over from Shakhtar Donetsk for an amount of at least 70 million euros, while he has barely made a name for himself. Loads of free bets were placed on Mudryk to Arsenal, but Chelsea hijacked the deal. Other Premier League clubs are eyeing Chelsea’s policies with suspicion, but on paper the Londoners appear to be doing nothing wrong.
Chelsea Winter Transfers
1. Mykhailo Mudryk – 70 million* (Shakhtar)
2. Benoît Badiashile – 38 million (AS Monaco)
3. Noni Madueke – 35 million (PSV)
4. Andrey Santos – 12.5 million (Vasco da Gama)
5. David Datro Fofana – 12 million (Molde FK)
6. João Félix (rental) – 11 million (Atlético Madrid)
*Minimum amounts in euros, based on Transfermarkt.com
Creative accounting at Chelsea?
All clubs in Europe must adhere to UEFA’s FFP rules. In addition, Chelsea must comply with the financial regulations of the Premier League. The rule of thumb in both cases: clubs should not incur huge losses in three-year booking periods. Otherwise, fines, points deduction or even exclusion will follow. In 2020, UEFA temporarily relaxed the FFP rules due to the corona crisis, but the reins will be tightened again in the coming years. For example, clubs may lose a maximum of 60 million euros in a period of three years, provided that the owner coughs up the amount. In the Premier League, this amount is 120 million euros.
But is Chelsea now breaking the rules? This season, 460 million euros in new player material has been obtained, while only about 56 million euros have been sold. Boehly seems to have found a clever trick with the extreme duration of player contracts. You can make depreciations over the length of a contract.
Long contracts as policy
An example: Mudryk cost Chelsea at least 70 million euros, an amount that will probably rise to 100 million euros through bonuses. The Ukrainian signed for 8.5 years until mid-2031. Due to this long deal, Chelsea can write off a much lower amount every year. Instead of, for example, 25 million euros (with a four-year contract), Chelsea can now write off just under 12 million euros per year.
Chelsea applies the same trick to the other winter purchases. Madueke (2030), defender Benoît Badiashile (2030) and attacker David Datro Fofana (2029) are also stuck at Stamford Bridge for a long time. In addition, in many cases the club has the option to extend the cooperation for a season. Chelsea will have to continue to generate enough money. The sale of players is an important source of income for many clubs. ‘The Blues’ have a lot of players under contract, but big sales have been scarce lately. And then there is also the threat of missing out on the lucrative Champions League football.
Chelsea is consciously taking risks
Chelsea won the Champions League and the European Super Cup in 2021. The Londoners also won the World Cup for club teams in 2022. Now Chelsea is in a sporting crisis. Coach Graham Potter’s side are tenth in the Premier League, ten points off the Champions League spots. Boehly will probably have to sell (many) players in the summer to comply with both UEFA and Premier League rules. But with his risky policy, this will be a big job. A player who performs below the desired level, or who does not play at all, is not worth a substantial investment by another club. If the player also earns 8 million euros every year, for example, he sees little point in a lower salary elsewhere.
New rules, new restrictions
On the other hand, a lot of Chelsea players can go on for a very long time. All winter arrivals are 23 years old or younger. Should a player excel and a wealthy superpower such as Real Madrid or Paris Saint-Germain come forward, Chelsea – given the contract length – has a strong negotiating position. But time will tell if Boehly and Chelsea follow the right path. According to various media, UEFA is now restricting Chelsea’s tactics. The Times, among others, claims that the European union will allow contracts of up to five years in the future.