Chelsea’s backs were always going to be against the wall this season after their failed 2022-23 campaign. Mauricio Pochettino inherits a squad of 44 players, so basically two football clubs. As with any new manager, Pochettino would like to make his own signings to fit his philosophy, but such an endeavor seemed difficult with Chelsea’s 500-million-pound outlay. So, Chelsea realistically need to sell before they can buy, but selling isn’t as easy as it is in FIFA manager mode.
The papers are already linking half of the Chelsea squad with moves away, with the most important departures being Mateo Kovacic to Manchester City for around 30 million, Kai Havertz to Arsenal for around 60 million and Mason Mount to Manchester United for what I can imagine being a similar fee. However, these are not the sales Chelsea want to make, these are serviceable players in their prime years who Pochettino could possibly mold and integrate into his system.
The main issue is the deadwood accumulated over the years at Stamford Bridge, players who either never fully integrated into the first-team squad or players who are nearing the end of their careers. These players could be perfectly good for Europa League-level teams in England or other top 5 league teams. The main issue with those potential moves is the minimal fees these clubs would be looking to pay for such a player.
This is where Chelsea’s unlikely saviors come in, namely Saudi Arabia and their new state-owned state-funded league. N’Golo Kante’s move to Al Ittihad is already finalized and the Saudis are set to increase their interest in Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Hakim Ziyech. Realistically these players would attract interest in the form of loans like Koulibaly to Inter or would have to be let go for peanuts.
However, as Saudi Arabia have a near unlimited supply of cash Chelsea will be looking to receive some substantial fees for their players, which will in no doubt aid their recruitment next season in regards to FFP and their current wage structure, which the aforementioned moves would decrease by around 20 million pounds per year. In recent days, media outlets and opposition fans have been quick to point out that Saudi Arabia has a stake in Clearlake Capital, the firm that is behind Todd Boehly’s takeover and has also invested alongside Boehly in some hotels.
So far these are the only discernible links between the two parties that I could find, so I will put it to you to form your own opinions on whether this is fishy or not. In the interest of fairness, I have to point out that the Saudi investment fund has assets all over the world and Clearlake has a similarly diverse portfolio of assets, meaning that the involvement of the PIF with Clearlake is basically a drop in the ocean. This drop could possibly be a place where Boehly and the Saudis decided to make some transactions regarding players or it could just be a case of a club looking to sell a lot of players and a regime looking to ship as many stars to its shores as possible.
By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Rob Newell – CameraSport