For some Chelsea supporters, following the club’s breathless spending must feel like being the protagonists in the film Don’t Look Up, a story about scientists desperately trying to warn the world about a deadly comet hurtling towards Earth.
While the transfer spree at Stamford Bridge is exhilarating, particularly as they blow rivals out of the water, there is a pervading sense that Chelsea could eventually get their comeuppance. On the face of it, buying the best youngsters in the world and entrusting them to Mauricio Pochettino, a coach with a track record of building long-term projects, makes sense — but there are also huge red flags.
With big fees come big pressure and, as it stands, Mykhailo Mudryk is a leading candidate to be the poster boy for the pitfalls of the club’s novel transfer strategy as he struggles to make an impact in English football since his £88.5 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk. Other new signings have suffered long-term injuries or fallen out of favour.
British record £115 million signing Moises Caicedo, meanwhile, is already under a degree of pressure after giving away a penalty on his debut, underlining the scrutiny that will fall on a young player with relatively limited experience in the Premier League. Massive fees are quickly forgotten when players are a success but when they underwhelm, price-tags are constantly referenced — see £97.7 million signing Romelu Lukaku.
Taking a punt on young players for modest fees is low risk because they can usually be sold-on with relative ease, but there is little prospect of Chelsea recouping their money on some of their additions and the club risks being stuck with flops on lengthy contracts. And while Pochettino appears well-suited to the job on paper, he prefers working with a small squad and was very particular about his signings at Tottenham.
It is a huge ask for Pochettino to manage a bloated group of expensive and inexperienced players, many of whom he has not picked personally.
More abstract but still concerning is the sense that Chelsea are losing an element of their identity by selling academy players. And then there are the financial risks. Have Chelsea really found a loophole in the rules or will their £1 billion spending catch up with them eventually, as it did with, say, Leeds United in the early 2000s?
Financial Fair Play is ever-changing and Chelsea will find it harder to stay within the rules when they run short of academy players to sell or return to European football and the jurisdiction of Uefa.