Following a rush of newspaper speculation in November, it all went very quiet on the Chelsea transfer gossip front.
Until Friday that was, when the Telegraph kick-started the Aguero gossip again with the suggestion that Chelsea have made a bid of £30m to Atletico for his services. The Daily Express joined the party yesterday, suggesting that the Argentine’s club had offered him to Chelsea for that figure under the proviso that he could stay with them on loan until the end of the season. The weekend has also seen rumours of a bid upwards of £30m for Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko.
But, despite a new round of gossip, I’m still unconvinced Chelsea will be making any major moves this month (I’m still convinced however that, if they can, they should - here's what my Chelsea transfer dealings might be). But what lies behind Chelsea’s reticence in the transfer market?
Big spending is no longer the Chelsea way. Having bought a number of players for figures over and above £20m – including Drogba, Essien and Wright-Phillips – Chelsea’s last major purchase was Shevchenko in the summer of 2006. Is the failure of the club’s record signing to make any form of impact at the club the reason behind Abramovich’s frugality?
Becoming financially stable
Three and a half years without a ‘major’ signing might indicate a Shevchenko syndrome (and sounds almost spoilt - oops). But it might go further than just feeling stung by Chelsea’s only real ‘marquee’ signing. There is a very real desire at Chelsea to become financially stable, as signified by ever-increasing reductions in annual loss figures and Abramovich’s writing-off of the club’s debt to him.
Spending figures - and indeed the amounts recovered through transfer fees - have only been going in one direction over the past three years:
As the table above (which shows money received/ spent from significant transfer dealings) shows, Chelsea transfer expenditure has been in almost continual decline since the summer of 2004. In contrast, the amount received from transfers has steadily increased in that period. In fact, during the 08/09 season, Chelsea actually made money through its dealings.
Whilst income and expenditure figures for transfer deals now appear to be converging, the real threat to Chelsea's stated aim to fund new purchases through player sales could well be the low transfer value of the club's current crop of ageing stars.
Will the ban stick?
Why appeal the FIFA transfer ban - off the back of the supposed wrongdoings over Kakuta's move from Lens - and request the decision be pushed back so the club is free to make transfers in the January window if there are no plans to actually do any deals?
Maybe it’s because Chelsea really don’t feel the deal will stick. We have heard nothing about the likely progression of the CAS verdict over the last month or so, but the last rumours suggested Chelsea may have been misinformed by the young Frenchman’s mother and that UEFA and the French/ English FA may have ratified the deal at the time. If any of this is true, Chelsea’s transfer ban could well be reduced or even rescinded altogether.
You can read my latest view on how Chelsea’s defence of their actions during Kakuta-gate might have grown here.
Focusing on young talent
As has regularly been stated by both Ancelotti and Chelsea’s senior management, the club is keen to see its young players start to make an impact at the club (presumably for both financial and footballing reasons). Given that Chelsea have invested at least £30m in young talent over the past few years however, it might not be as thrifty a solution as it first seems.
Changing the Chelsea name
Abramovich and Gourlay are tired of paying over the odds for players. Following the burst of wild spending between 2004 and 2006, the Chelsea name became synonymous with ‘money no object’ bids. Clubs saw them coming and took advantage.
As evidenced by the drawn-out attempt in the summer of 2008 to acquire Robinho, Chelsea no longer want to be held to ransom by clubs (or players) who look to make too much of the Stamford Bridge outfit’s wallet-size. Taking a deliberately harder line in negotiation is one part of a strategy to strengthen Chelsea’s position when dealing with other clubs.
I firmly believe deals do need to be done this January – although not necessarily for big name players. I’ve written about what deals I think Chelsea need to make here. Who knows what’s around the corner this month? But, even if a star name becomes available, don’t expect Chelsea to pay crazy money. Those days are behind us.