The Enzo Fernandez signing completed a monumental January for Chelsea. In one month, they exploited and further broke a decaying system. Despite his departure, Abramovich’s specter continues to hover over Chelsea.
In January, Chelsea spent over 350 million pounds in an attempt to push for Europe. That amount spent by one club is more than any other league.
Chelsea definitely overpaid for the players, but in a vacuum, these were good moves for the future. These moves won’t win Chelsea anything this season, but it sets up a fascinating future. By snatching up these young talents in such a manner, the Prem has now built a monopoly on talent.
When the Premier League project started in the 90s, it meant to send English soccer to the top. There is no way to deny that it has done that. However, it has come at the expense of European soccer in general.
Just as they did when Abramovich first bought the club, Chelsea have broken the transfer system. Now it will be up to the rest of Europe to keep up.
To be fair, Chelsea’s transfer window is what most FIFA fans would have done, if they were given a club to run. It’s not the fans’ money, but from afar, it’s fascinating to watch.
Adding Felix, Fernandez and Mudryk is the equivalent of signing all of SOFIFA’s top rated youngsters in a new FIFA save. The mouthwatering young talent at Chelsea is something that has never really been seen. Even City and PSG have preferred proven superstars to Chelsea’s youth movement.
With Gakpo, Haaland and Saliba amongst others, there’s an argument to be made that this is the greatest collection of young talent in one league in a while. There’s enough future ballon d’or winners to rival the early 2010s La Liga.
Perhaps just as interesting as the fees doled out for these players are their contracts. Unlike the more traditional 4 year contracts, they’ve been given baseball contracts.
Soccer is a brutal sport where the slightest downturn in form could have you out the window. Having a longer contract gives players more stability and takes some power away from teams. In addition, since no other league can really offer Prem wages, it gives the player even more leverage in staying.
On the other hand, this can be spun as a win for owners and team managers. Giving a player a contract of 5+ years makes it harder for players to demand a move or opt out. It also locks up a player for their prime, making it close to impossible for them to move to a larger club.
Chelsea has already redefined the transfer window once and shifted the balance of power to England. Now they’ve done it again on just as shaky ground.
Almost 21 years ago, a group of businessmen created a new sporting entity with the design of reinventing soccer. At this point, they have succeeded and forced every other league to submit to them.
There has always been a natural cycle in European soccer. Every major league and nation will have a chance to rule the continent for a time. The ‘90s had Italy, 2010s Spain and England had the ‘80s.
When the Prem was launched in 1992, the long term hope was to end this cycle and place the English league atop the sporting landscape and its fortunes. It’s an understandable desire to finally break a cycle and asset dominance.
Tapping into the potential of TV contracts was the best way to spread the game and its influence globally. By having the ability to beam into households across the world, the Prem became more and more attractive to richer and richer owners. This is the aspect that all other leagues should be striving for.
However, this large gap in marketability and profit has created a gap that is insurmountable between the Prem and Europe. Since teams can’t refuse the money that Prem teams throw at them, the rest of Europe becomes a feeder system. There is a positive side though, as certain teams are able to stay alive financially this way.
If there was a more fair distribution of profit revenues in European competition, this could ease the growing divide. Perhaps a salary cap would help, but as Juventus has shown, clubs are more than willing to circumvent salary restrictions. There is no easy solution because this requires dealing with wealth redistribution and those at the top won’t give up control.
This amount of speeding and dominance will not last, especially as England undergoes immense turmoil. Like all plans of mice and men, this one will surely go awry.
As the second half of the season kicks off, Chelsea will likely not secure a Champions League spot. But that was never what these moves were meant for, they were to secure Chelsea’s future. The future is easy to plan for, but these hopes and wishes seldom come true.
Featured image: Chelsea FC