Chelsea fans will already know that, last Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) granted Chelsea a stay in relation to the transfer ban FIFA imposed back in September. Since then, the papers have been full of wild and wonderful reports on who Gourlay, Arnesen and Abramovich are plotting to bring to Stamford Bridge when the transfer window reopens in January.
From what I’ve read in the national newspapers over the last few weeks, Chelsea are looking at no less than seventeen players as potential recruits including: Van Der Vaart, Adam Johnson, Wanderson, Aguero, Villa, De Rossi, De Guzman, Rodwell, Ribery, Hamsik, Luis Suarez, Pazzini, Di Maria, Corchia, Garcia, Coentrao and Fabiano.
A not inconsiderable number of players to be linked with, especially bearing in mind the club was linked with just 39 over the summer.
Meanwhile the noises from Chelsea have been very different. Ancelotti has been quoted as saying: "I'm very happy with the squad and it's not necessary at the moment to take new players. I know we will lose four players in January, but if we maintain the players' fitness, we can have a good period also without the African players." Bruce Buck has also stopped mentioning the desire for Chelsea to make a ‘marquee’ signing, and Gourlay’s public appearances have so far centred around commercial considerations.
In the face of contrasting reports, who knows what Chelsea fans should expect: a quiet January, or the flouting of a £50m ‘warchest’ as touted by the press. Looking at it dispassionately however, there’s every reason to expect Chelsea to get the chequebook out. Whilst the transfer ban has been put back, it hasn’t yet been overturned. With an ageing squad, and despite Ancelotti’s talk about having previously managed players in their forties, the club needs to start preparing for the future and pick up players that can be the natural replacements for the likes of Drogba, Lampard, Ballack and Carvalho in the next few years. With the prospect of a two-window transfer ban still looming and younger players not yet breaking through, not entering the market in January would present a significant risk.
It makes sense for other, more practical reasons too. Real Madrid’s extravagant spending in the summer warped the market for everyone else – perhaps Chelsea believe that, six months down the line, the market will have now started to return to more normal levels meaning the likes of Ribery aren’t so outrageously priced? Perhaps they also believe that buying players like Villa, Ribery and Aguero – all playing for teams either not in or unlikely to play in the knockout stages of this year’s Champions League – can be purchased for a reduced fee.
Ancelotti's silence regarding new targets could also just be a smokescreen to avoid the inevitable inflated asking prices when selling clubs feel assured Chelsea are in the market for players.
Finally, the stay was granted by CAS at Chelsea’s request. Surely Chelsea wouldn’t request the stay unless they wanted to do business in January? Summer was a disappointment for Chelsea fans choosing to buy into the tabloid gossip train, but if I were a betting man I’d wager that this January might come slightly closer to meeting expectations.
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