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Looking back at Chelsea's January 2014 transfer window

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From the good (Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz, Demba Ba, Nicolas Anelka, everything in January 2012) to the bad (Scott Parker) to the horrible (Fernando Torres), Chelsea is usually more active than most during the winter transfer window.

As part of our ongoing attempts to provide in-depth coverage on how Chelsea is conducting business, we decided to take a fresh look at last winter's transfer window having had a full year to see how these deals have played out.

This sort of "look back" may become a regular WAGNH feature for future transfer windows, so let be sure to let us know what you think and if there's anything else you'd like to see in future rundowns.

Transfers out

Michael Essien left on a free transfer to AC Milan and a few youngsters were also allowed to leave on free transfers, but we're going to focus on the players that actually brought in transfer fees, Juan Mata and Kevin de Bruyne.

Juan Mata (£37.1m fee, £23.6m profit)

Initial reaction: No one is arguing that Mata represents one of the finest ingredients in all of Europe, but that matters little if Jose Mourinho is allergic to him. Mourinho has proved time and time again that he is the best chef in Europe, so if he's not going to put Mata on his menu, well then, why let him spoil on the counter when he can fetch a nice price at the market?

One year on: I'm not sure how the cooking metaphor holds up, but I was basically saying that almost any other club would love to have Juan Mata in their lineup, but if Jose Mourinho wasn't going to play him, then it only made sense to sell him while he retained his high transfer value.

Despite the fact that Mata was generally excellent at Chelsea, I couldn't envision him supplanting any of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Oscar or Willian in the starting eleven.

Given Spain's ignominious early exit from the World Cup which saw Mata only play 34 minutes and the likely reality that Mata would have spent much of the second half of last season on the bench had he stayed at Chelsea, it's safe to say that Mata's value was at an all-time high when he was sold. Of course, the fact that David Moyes and Manchester United were likely in a bit of panic around that time probably didn't hurt Chelsea in negotiations either.

Kevin De Bruyne (£16.7m fee, £10.84m profit)

Initial reaction: There was no opinion in the original financial breakdown of the transfer to Wolfsburg, but I recall being generally positive about the deal and highlighted it several times as a positive example of Chelsea's innovative approach to youth development. Also, just to address the natural tendency to compare De Bruyne with Andre Schurrle and my thinking at the time, if you had asked me if I wanted to sell Andre Schurrle for the same amount and keep De Bruyne, I would have turned that offer down without a second's thought.

One year on: While Mata was likely sold at the perfect time to get the highest possible transfer fee, in hindsight, Chelsea probably could have done with keeping De Bruyne and simply sending him back to the Bundesliga on loan. De Bruyne still had 3.5 years left on his contract, so there was no rush for Chelsea to cash in.

When De Bruyne was sold, he had only played 131 Premier League minutes for Chelsea. As such, selling him for nearly £17m when he was originally bought for around £8m is a brilliant example of how profitable Chelsea's investment in young talent can be.

However, his prodigious development in Germany and with the Belgian national team has seen his play (and transfer value) improve quite a bit. When he was still under Chelsea's control and on loan to Werder Bremen he was named as the Bundesliga's young player of the year, but upon his return at the start of last season, he saw limited minutes. Mourinho clearly preferred Andre Schurrle, and so it was hard to fault Chelsea for cashing in on a player Mourinho wasn't going to use.

Given De Bruyne's continued rise -- he has six goals and thirteen assists in twenty-five matches with Wolfsburg so far this season and was named as the second-best outfield player in the Bundesliga's first half of this season in a survey taken by 240 Bundesliga players, only behind another former Chelsea man, Arjen Robben -- Chelsea may have been able to earn an additional £7-10 million had it simply waited until now to sell him, but of course, hindsight is 20/20.

As it stands, this deal seems to have worked out well for all parties as De Bruyne is thriving, Wolfsburg has an excellent young playmaker, and while it left a tidy sum on the table, Chelsea earned quite a bit of profit (which it put to good use given some of the club's recent signings) with very little effort.

Transfers in

Nemanja Matic (£20.8m fee, costs £7.4m per year)

Initial reaction: Previous dealings aside, Chelsea just picked up a very good midfielder at an excellent price.

One year on: Matic has started in forty of the forty-three Premier League and Champions League matches he's been eligible for in his second stint at Chelsea (he missed the loss to Newcastle earlier this season and was a sub in two games last season, one of which was his debut).

With Matic on the pitch, Chelsea has conceded just 27 goals, including the recent five-goal debacle at White Hart Lane (.64 goals allowed per game). In the year prior to Matic coming back (January 2013 - January 2014), Chelsea surrendered 47 goals in 52 Premier League and European matches (.90 goals allowed per game).

Matic has been an indispensable part of the lineup, and still just twenty-six years old, he looks to remain one of the first names on Jose Mourinho's team sheet for years to come (and at a very cost-effective price).

Kurt Zouma (£14.5m fee, costs £4.72m per year)

Initial reaction: The Zouma deal looks like to be a good piece of business in the short term and could very well end up being an amazing bargain for Chelsea down the road. Zouma is an extremely talented youngster who immediately becomes our top centreback prospect. Graham has even gone as far to say that Zouma will be competing with Gary Cahill next year for a starting role at Chelsea next season. Personally, I love this deal, as I'm a big proponent of buying up as many prospects as possible, as it is a low-cost way of building for the future and fortifying the first team.

One year on: We can already chalk this deal up as a win for Chelsea. Granted, Zouma has only played forty-seven career Premier League minutes, but he's had enough run in the Champions League (three starts) and in domestic cups (four starts) for us to see that Chelsea has a special young player on its hands.

Mohamed Salah (£11m fee, costs £3.56m per year)

Initial reaction: Salah's FFP cost is a drop in the bucket and and when you consider that Salah is a 21-year-old who has already established himself as the best player on his national team and was very impressive against Chelsea in the four recent Basel matches, this looks to be a forward-thinking deal that could very well end up being a great piece of business.

One year on: I very much hope Chelsea continues to pull the trigger on players of Salah's makeup. When Chelsea signed Salah, he had already accumulated 53 goals and 32 assists across all competitions in his young three-year professional career, including three goals in four matches against Chelsea. Not being an avid follower of the Swiss league or the Egyptian national team, I only saw Salah play in those four Chelsea matches, but he looked very, very good then.

Salah hasn't been able to establish himself in Chelsea's lineup (only 814 minutes across 18 appearances over the last twelve months), and is rumoured to go on loan this month, and I hope he does, as he needs regular first-team to continue to develop. Whether he delivers on his original promise or is sold on to another team following a hopefully successful loan spell, Chelsea doesn't look to do any worse than breaking even on the Salah investment.

As breaking even is really the worst-case scenario for the Salah deal, I want to reiterate that Chelsea should be taking fliers on every top young prospect it can get its hands on. I've been preaching that heavy investment in youth via the academy and in the transfer market is crucial to Chelsea's success, both from a financial perspective and a talent acquisition perspective since early 2011, and I still can't stress enough that this is the ultimate low-risk high-reward investment from the club's perspective.

Bertrand Traore (no fee, costs £1.3m per year)

I'm very high on Traore, but I fully recognise that my bias has crept in with the young Burkinabe. I've seen almost every single minute of his professional club career and truly enjoy watching him develop at Vitesse. Everyone at Vitesse thinks he's a special player. He can play on both wings, as the central attacking midfielder, and even as the lone striker. He is well beyond his years in terms of decision-making and technique and he knows how to finish.

In my, ahem, over-exuberance, I pegged him to win the Eredivisie golden boot this season, which looks like a ridiculous prediction now (and to be fair, it was probably only slightly less ridiculous when the season started), but he does have ten goals in his first thirty-three professional matches. Not bad for a kid who only just turned nineteen years old a few months ago.

On the books, his cost is insignificant, and Chelsea's investment in Traore will eventually pay off in a big way, either on the pitch at Stamford Bridge or on the balance sheets via a transfer sale (I very much hope it's the former).

Mario Pasalic (£1.6m fee, costs £520k per year)

Pasalic was officially signed over the summer, but as the deal was made last January, we'll include him here. I still don't know very much about Pasalic, but just a few weeks before Chelsea purchased him, he was named as one of the 100 youngsters to watch for 2014 by IBWM (Zouma and Salah were also on this list, by the way).

Unsurprisingly then, the nineteen-year-old was highly sought after by clubs wanting to take him on loan this summer, reportedly receiving loan offers from clubs in the Eredivisie, Bundesliga, Serie A, and La Liga. He and Chelsea ended up sending him to Elche, where based on impressions from the always-excellent @chelseayouth's loan reports, he's had a decent season so far.

Keep in mind, a decent showing overall may actually be fantastic when taking into account where Pasalic is at in this stage of his career (i.e. very early on). This time last year, Pasalic was playing for Hajduk Split in the Croatian league against the likes of teams called Slaven Belupo. Fast forward to today, and he has matches against Barcelona at Camp Nou and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu under his belt thanks to his loan to Elche.

Pasalic has featured in fourteen of Elche's nineteen matches (nine starts), and interestingly, Elche lost all five matches in which Pasalic hasn't played. Hopefully the manager notices this as well and makes sure he gets more run during the second half of the season, as he seems to elevate the squad from terrible to simply mediocre (three wins, six draws, five losses when he plays).

Final thoughts

Having had a full year to see how these deals have impacted the club, Chelsea looks to have done an excellent job during last January's transfer window. Matic projects to be a huge part of the first team for the foreseeable future and the club also landed four promising young players who, overall, project to be great value for the club.

In addition to last winter's group of young players, Chelsea signed Wallace two winters ago and landed Kevin De Bruyne, Patrick Bamford, Lucas Piazon, and Kenneth Omerou three winters ago, and so I certainly hope this trend of buying promising young players in bulk continues this winter.

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