Question: When is a selling club not a selling club? Answer: When it’s Chelsea in a world governed by UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.
For all the mega money Roman Abramovich has splashed out in 11-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge, the Londoners are now having to cut their albeit very luxurious and expensive cloth accordingly to avoid falling foul of the restrictions brought in to end the days of huge net spending.
Let’s not delude ourselves, Chelsea still spend big – their capture of Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado was the largest outlay on transfer deadline day last Monday and took their total outlay this season to way over £100million.
That’s Chelsea’s biggest annual investment for a decade since Abramovich’s first two seasons but the main difference now is that they are offloading big too in order to balance the books.
Since January 2014 the current Premier League leaders have recouped over £173million in transfer fees.
As much as it grated Real Madrid, a club who loves to bring in ‘Galacticos’, the Spanish giants were compelled to sell Angel Di Maria to Manchester United last summer for nearly £60million.
Merseyside Derby Everton vs Liverpool at Goodison Park. Martin Skrtel & Romelu Lukaku. Photo by Colin Lane
Splashing out big – but raking it back in too…
In recent times Chelsea have become the masters of squeezing out serious money from rivals when it comes to offloading those deemed surplus to requirements.
In just over a year they’ve banked £50million for David Luiz, £37million for Juan Mata, £22million for Andre Schurrle, £18million for Kevin De Bruyne, £10million for Ryan Betrand plus £8million for Demba Ba.
And of course there’s the small matter of the £28million they picked up for a certain Romelu Lukaku from Everton – a £10million profit on a player who never scored a goal for them in 15 outings.
Although a massive outlay for the Blues – almost twice the amount of their previous club record signing, fellow Belgian Marouane Fellaini who joined from Standard Liege six years earlier – it has proven a good move for both parties.
Everton have finally bagged themselves a striker possessing the attributes that give him the potential to be a world-class performer.
Chelsea on the other hand cannot afford to have the patience for such a prospect to develop and for just £4million more than they sold Lukaku for, they went and bagged themselves the finished article in the shape of Diego Costa who thankfully for Roberto Martinez’s men who should be grateful for small mercies, is suspended for Wednesday night’s clash.
Romelu Lukaku in action against Crystal Palace in January
Will Big Rom Luk back in anger on Wednesday?
Despite Lukaku claiming his move to Chelsea in 2011 was a “dream come true” at the time after following the London club’s fortunes since he was a 10-year-old and admiring the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, it’s fair to say that his move to Stamford Bridge didn’t quite work out as he would have liked it to.
The club’s bosses were hoping that the powerfully-built ‘man-child’ who had been starring in the Jupiler League since he was 16 could mature into being the next Didier Drogba, but he only ever started one Premier League match for Chelsea – the final game of the domestic season at home to Blackburn on May 13, 2012 – six days before his team-mates defeated Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.
It was against the German giants that Lukaku made his final contribution in a Chelsea shirt. Recalled after a successful season-long loan spell at West Bromwich Albion in 2012/13 in which he netted 17 times in 38 games – including a final day hat-trick against Manchester United in the amazing 5-5 draw that brought the curtain down on Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career – he missed the decisive penalty in Prague to hand Bayern the UEFA Super Cup as his tame effort was easily saved by Manuel Neuer.
That was on August 30, 2013, and within 72 hours Lukaku was an Everton player, albeit on loan.
Roberto Martinez and Jose Mourinho on the touchline
Might Mourinho’s cryptic moans backfire this time?
While the player continued to keep his own council over his Stamford Bridge exit, his manager Jose Mourinho was typically vocal about the situation.
The Portuguese said: “Romelu likes to speak. He’s a young boy. But the only thing that he didn’t say is why he went to Everton on loan.
“My last contact with him was to tell him exactly that. ‘Why do you never say why you are not here?’
“It’s something that he should say, because he likes to speak, the reason why he is not with Chelsea and he is in Everton.”
Mourinho added: “It’s good for his evolution. It’s good for Chelsea, because he belongs to us for a long time and I’m happy with that.
“I’m happy that he’s scoring goals against our direct rivals and he doesn’t score against us because he can’t.
“It’s phenomenal when you have a player even when he’s not playing for you he’s scoring against your opponent. That’s very, very good.”
Can Romelu leave his old side Chelsea feeling Blue?
While Lukaku may have found affection severely lacking at his previous employers, Evertonians have very much taken him to their hearts.
On signing for the Blues last summer he said: “For me it was a very quick decision. I knew I wanted to come back here very quickly. I’m 21 and I needed to be in a good team and where it felt right.
“Here I have the confidence of the whole technical staff and the trust of the supporters. I feel I belong here.
“I have a very good relationship with everyone at this club. This is where I want to grow.”
Publicly Lukaku remains diplomatic about his former employers and said: “I don’t have any regrets. I am very happy with the choices I’ve made.
“Sometimes things like this happen in football. Sometimes it’s not meant to be.
“Chelsea are a big club and when I arrived I was 18. I was very ambitious. They taught me how to be a professional, a work ethic and a winning mentality.
“It is a great football club. I wouldn’t say anything bad about that club but I didn’t want to be on the bench for 10 years.”
Back in September, Lukaku scored at the home of another of his former loan teams West Brom but refused to celebrate the strike – his first since joining Everton permanently – out of respect for ex-team-mates and fans.
It would be interesting to see if he is equally muted if he nicks one at Stamford Bridge.
Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.