London’s Blues have splashed eye-popping cash this season with hardly any of the on-pitch results to match, and something’s gotta give.
In the 2022-2023 season alone under new majority owner Todd Boehly, Chelsea spent €611.49 million (nearly $670 million) on player transfers, as noted by Transfermarkt. Those expenditures have been good enough to lead the Blues to an embarrassing 11th in the Premier League this season as of this writing, a quarterfinal exit in the UEFA Champions League, no trophies, no European football for next season.
Chelsea have a payroll just shy of $266 million this season according to Capology and an estimated $283.7 million already on the books for 2023-24, per Spotrac. They’re onto its third manager this season after Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter were sacked; neither of them manage to pack a perfume potent enough to mask the acrid stench emanating from Stamford Bridge these days.
This week, center-back Thiago Silva, a World Cup winner who joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in August of 2020, laid into Boehly following Tuesday’s 2-0 UCL loss to Real Madrid, telling him to stop the club’s current course come up with a new transfer strategy that the 35-year-old deemed indecisive.
“We can’t be blaming the managers if we don’t take responsibility,” Silva said. “Change of ownership, new players arriving; we had to increase the size of the changing room because it didn’t fit the size of the squad.”
There’s no question the club is ridiculously talented. Enzo Fernandez, 22, was instrumental in Argentina’s World Cup win in December before Chelsea spent an incredible €121 million to bring him in from Benfica in January. England forward Raheem Sterling was brought in from Manchester City for €56 million last summer. An insane €251 million was spent to overhaul the Blues’ defense, with Wesley Fofana arriving from Leicester City, Marc Cucurella in from Brighton, Benoît Badiashile coming from Monaco, veteran Kalidou Koalibali imported from Napoli, and Malo Gusto in from Lyon.
Nonetheless, Silva — himself a defender directly impacted by all these additions — noted loud and clear that Chelsea just have too many damn players.
We haven’t even mentioned the incumbent players already on the squad, like England national team stalwarts Reece James, Mason Mount, and Ben Chillwell, Kai Havertz, Mateo Kovecic, Christian Pulisic. (This additionally sets aside any of the 20+ players the Blues have out on loan, from Romelo Lukaku to Callum Hudson-Odoi to Tiémoué Bakayoko.)
There just isn’t enough playing time to go around, and efforts to force this jigsaw puzzle together with teeth firmly clenched have made it such that just about nobody is getting what they want and the team isn’t getting what it needs.
“There are amazing players in the squad, but on the other hand, there are always players that are going to be unhappy,” Silva said. “There is always going to be someone upset because not everyone can play. The manager can only pick 11 from a squad of 30-something. That’s tough. We need to stop and put a strategy in place, otherwise next season we could make the same mistakes.”
Todd Boehly is acting like not only someone who feels like he’s under pressure to spend lavishly to justify the $5.4 billion spent to buy the club last May, but a tenderfoot soccer executive merely in the infant stages of learning how to take team identity into account when bringing in talent from all over the world. Playing fantasy football with a storied team like Chelsea rarely works if there isn’t an actual plan in place that takes how these players fit together into account.
Tuchel had the players he liked. Potter had his preferences. Now, caretaker manager Frank Lampard has to cobble together a cohesive group from Boehly’s island of FAO Schwartz-priced toys.
When big clubs don’t perform well, most just try to hire a new manager and try to spend their way back to success. As Silva (and most fans and observers) readily realize, that’s how Chelsea got into this predicament in the first place. Boehly and his front office have to forge a path forward with a clear strategy, a plan to use the club’s incumbent talent and cache of young prospects to put together a squad rich in both talent and chemistry — something elusive enough for the Blues that they find themselves one of the laughingstocks of England this season.
If Boehly decides to look in the mirror, heed the warnings of seen-it-all veterans like Silva, and address Chelsea’s glaring issues, the club might just take off its clown nose, wipe off the white makeup, and rejuvenate its efforts to deliver the greatness its loyal fans deserve.
Transfer spending does not equal roster construction — squad fit and player development are far more important in the long run. That’s the stuff Champions League winners are built on, and with that in mind, this summer figures to be a fascinating one at the Bridge as the window opens up once again.
2022-23 Chelsea Wage Spending Overview
All salary figures via Capology as of April 19, 2023
- Annual Salaries: $265,938,955
- Weekly Wage Spending: $5,114,211
- Average Player Salary per Week: $159,819
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