Last night Chelsea were linked with a move for Roma’s Daniele De Rossi, the latest in a long line of puzzling rumours that has stretched from Pirlo to Beckham.
As Chelsea have continued to be linked with ageing central midfield players (not that De Rossi is ageing) this summer, I’ve become increasingly frustrated and critical of Ancelotti’s supposed transfer plans. Having always been slightly cynical of his record at Milan (you can read a little of what I thought of him back in June here) and the older players brought into the San Siro team in that time, I began to concern myself that our new manager never achieved what he should have done with the resources available to him.
Following a comment from a reader last week however, I thought I’d take a closer look at Ancelotti’s transfers while at Milan. At least my suspicions would be based on more than a hunch. What I found was actually a little surprising - there's another, entirely different, way to look at his record.
There’s a whole debate about what influence Ancelotti had over transfers at his former club. But the fact remains that Ancelotti had relatively meagre resources to deal with throughout his tenure at Milan, meaning his return of two European cups, one Serie A and one domestic cup trophy isn’t a bad haul.
Between 2002 and 2009 Milan spent around £128m on new signings, largely through buying or loaning older players supposedly past their prime (eg. Ronadinho, Zambrotta, or Beckham) or bringing in younger players with something to prove (eg. Flamini, Senderos or Borriello). In that time however, they also received nearly £90m in sales, meaning that the total investment required over that period totalled just £40m. Over seven seasons, that’s less than £6m a season. A pittance.
Compare that pittance to Chelsea’s spending record and the contrast is remarkable - £402m spent, £118m received meaning investment of £284m. It’s not a dissimilar picture at Man Utd either, whose total investment in that time came to £136m (£254m spent, £118m received). Liverpool’s total investment is marginally lower at around £120m. Most interestingly, the closest comparison to Ancelotti’s comparative thriftiness is Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, where the figures are almost identical to that of Milan (£129m spent, £91m received, total investment £38m).
The comparison with Arsenal doesn’t end there. Both are big clubs with big fanbases, on a limited budget and, in latter years, falling behind their biggest rivals. Where Arsenal went for youth however, Milan went for big names and experience – neither coming with a cheap wage bill attached. But no-one can argue that Milan haven’t had superior success to Arsenal over that period.
So in conclusion, Ancelotti had a low budget, limited control over transfers and various scandals to deal with at Milan, but still managed to mould a team that could pick up trophies. Perhaps that’s why the newly budget-conscious Chelsea (and an ‘involved’ Abramovich) saw so much potential in him. Regardless, hopefully the logic that follows is that, with the purse string loosened a little longer-term, he’ll be able to achieve at least similar success at Chelsea.
But who said logic had anything to do with football…
You might also be interested to read:
- Could steering clear of injuries be the biggest factor in success for Chelsea? A look at Dimichelis