Chelsea added yet another player today when the confirmed the signing of Brazilian midfielder Oscar. Chelsea fans are mostly pleased. Fans of other teams are mostly annoyed. Arsene Wenger is probably sitting somewhere muttering into his glass of wine while acting dumbfounded that Chelsea can spend so much money with FFP looming. Well I'm going to help poor Mr. Wenger out today and break down a very simple blueprint on how Chelsea can beat FFP with their continued spending in the transfer market.
Step 1: Get as much mileage as we can out of the old guard
This one is fairly simple. Players under contract before June 2010 can be excluded from FFP accounting as the rule was not officially in place yet. Chelsea saw the advantage of this and extended, well, everybody that was remotely willing prior to that deadline. Sometimes it meant overpaying a declining player, but that overpay didn't count against FFP accounting. They went into the first accounting period of FFP with a bunch of players that would never hurt their compliance even if they cost the club loads of actual money, and then they rode them for as long as they possibly could. Guys like Florent Malouda and Michael Essien may not be what they used to, be they don't count against Chelsea at all as far as FFP is concerned. Brilliant.
Step 2: Target players with resale value as our major purchases
Buying young is the big thing now. When we buy young, we buy players that should still be increasing in value as they play out their contract. In many cases, we get them for a second contract that does not come with a transfer fee that would negatively impact our FFP accounting. If they aren't Chelsea caliber or are demanding too much in wages down the road, we can always sell them later on. With the exception of Fernando Torres, Chelsea haven't spent big on a player over the age of 23 since FFP came into play.
Step 3: Buy low when the opportunity presents itself
Chelsea have done this twice in the last 7 months, with Gary Cahill and Marko Marin both representing players with some combination of contract status, injury issues, or tactical fit issues depressing their value. They may not be superstars, but they'll be serviceable and likely retain their value for resale despite their age. Every club needs role players and will have to purchase some players in their peak years, it's good business to buy low as opposed to targeting the Papiss Cisse's of the world that are at their peak value.
Step 4: Spend big. Spend really big. Buy future superstars. Do it right now.
This may seem counterproductive to the idea of beating FFP, but it really isn't. Spend huge right now. Don't wait, identify holes for the future and fill them immediately. If a top youngster is available and doesn't fill a hole? Buy him anyway! Why? Because of all those pre-2010 contracts we've had floating around. We've essentially been playing with house money since FFP began, but showing a profit in the first accounting periods of FFP doesn't earn us brownie points with UEFA (after all, Platini hates English teams). We are allowed to show a reasonable loss under FFP, and not showing that loss would be silly. Any profit we show is money we could have spent on players, and none of that money doesn't carry over into the future.
Spending that money now while it can be fit into the books also allows us to potentially spend more later. When that later date comes, we should have some Chelsea caliber players developed as well as some semi-valuable assets to sell. We shouldn't have to buy as much as we've already filled some future holes, but we'll still have the same amount of money to potentially spend under FFP. That means we can target better players. What's more, those players we end up selling will fund further spending that we otherwise couldn't have done, allowing us to target still higher quality players. Furthermore, clubs that have run afoul of FFP might even be desperate to sell, making available some of the top talent in the world and giving us additional leverage in bidding. Great chess players think many moves ahead, and well managed clubs will do the same. Michael Emenalo and company appear to be great chess players.
Step 5: Don't rush the youngsters, use the loan system
This one is also key. Young players will have more value on the market the more that they have played and proved themselves. They'll also develop more with extra playing time. Kevin De Bruyne may be a marginal upgrade to Florent Malouda on our bench this season, but he'll likely gain more long term value by going out on loan and starting. Florent Malouda is "house money" anyway, so we might as well take advantage if it let's some others develop further. If we can afford to let these youngsters develop more, do it.
Step 6: Load up the academy
Bring in the best young prospects you can find before they've signed professional terms at their original club. We built a fantastic facility, use it. If other fantastic academies come calling, take on the player's 27 year old brother as a 19th choice keeper or sign up his slightly less talented older brothers to appease the family. What you'll pay them and pay for development fees are tiny little drops in the bucket compared to the value of developing a single world class player. If players don't develop as we want, we really don't lose any significant money on them anyway. If we loan 20 players out, that's 20 more potential spots for youngsters in the U21 and U18 ranks. Fill them. Fill them with highly touted youngsters. More top prospects equals a greater chance that we develop great players. Aim for quantity and quality. It's a cheap way to plan for the future.
FFP is going to change the way clubs operate, and many clubs are approaching it in very different ways. Chelsea's approach to FFP is starting to become very clear, and frankly it appears that they've managed to put themselves in a very good position not only early in the accounting process, but for years to come as well. They also happened to time winning the Champions League very well, and the new Premier League TV money ought to be some additional cushion as well.
While many Chelsea fans will be in fear of FFP, I hope Chelsea aren't close to done spending. Victor Moses fits multiple steps in my blueprint, so snap him up. Cesar Azpilicueta does as well. We may as well look for a few more young midfielders as well, the sooner we wrap up the deals, the sooner those fees come off the FFP books. Buying now means that any amortized transfer fees will actually be off the books when Chelsea actually have to break even, waiting to buy will mean they are still counting those on our books when the books get harder to balance. Sorry Arsene, Chelsea do seem to have a plan to deal with FFP in the future and it appears to be a pretty damn good one.