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Back to School: The Chelsea Winter Transfer Business Report Card

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Remember that scene in Back to School when Rodney Dangerfield's self-made millionaire businessman Thornton Melon, still abuzz after joining his son, Jason Melon (Keith Gordon), in college, surprises Jason and his friend, antisocial anarchist Derek Lutz (Robert Downey Jr.), with a penthouse-style renovation of their dorm rooms?1

That used to be Chelsea. Accustomed to relatively uneventful Januarys prior to the arrival of Roman Abramovich, all of a sudden we supporters were thrust into the haut monde. Lavish, hot-tub tier signings during the January window became the norm. For better, for worse.

Since 2003, more than £214 million has been spent by the club on assorted winter wheelings and dealings. That figure, of course, does not include this season. This January, the club adopted a more frugal approach to the midterm rummage sale, to the chagrin of many a Sky Sports pundit.

Nothing wrong with that, right? Right?

Let's assess.


Alexandre Pato

  • Previous club: Corinthians
  • Fee: Loan

How exciting. It's as if Emmett Brown himself has whisked us back to 2007.

Except it's actually 2016. And Pato - well, he's not exactly the sprightly duck Chelsea targeted nearly a decade ago. He's not even a striker anymore.

A wage packet of roughly £30K per week significantly lessens the investment, and Pato has shown fleeting signs of recovery since returning to his native Brazil. However, considering history, overall form and general fitness, it's unrealistic — and unfair to the player — to expect a full-blown renaissance.

Hardly groundbreaking business, this one, but the budget rental of a former Brazilian international with something to prove is hardly a real gamble, either. Furthermore, it's about time one of these "forlorn striker arrives at Chelsea to resurrect career" cases works out in our favor.

Grade: C+

Matt Miazga

  • From: New York Red Bulls
  • Fee: £3.5 million

Virtually unknown central defender joins Chelsea. Shocking.

Kidding aside, Miazga is the kind of player the club has been targeting for years now. Young, big (really big), athletic, technically proficient, natural leadership skill — the upside is tremendous. Scouts called him the best youth prospect in Major League Soccer; some even compared him to Jaap Stam. That's pushing it, sure, but also speaks to the 20-year-old's potential. His affinity for Chelsea doesn't hurt the case for, either.

That said, this is an extraordinary trajectory for any young player to take, much less one from MLS with limited experience, and considering the club's at-best scattered history with youth players, whether Miazga emerges as a value signing really is a crapshoot. At £3 million and change, though, it's a risk worth taking.

Grade: B



  • Destination: Jiangsu Suning
  • Fee: £20-25 million

Ramires, he of seemingly limitless stamina and scorer of fine goals, joined a buffet of name-brand footballers in being lured to the Far East this winter. Though the Brazilian featured sparingly under interim jefe Guus Hiddink, his departure was still somewhat of a surprise. And also kind of sad.

He did, after all, play a pivotal role in the magical run of Twenty Twelve. Then again, £20-plus million for a soon-to-be 29-year-old (purchased from Benfica for £18 million in 2010) with a rapidly diminishing skill set is far too good to pass up. This was an easy decision for the board.

Grade: A

Patrick Bamford

Landing at Palace, newly revitalized under Alan Pardew, feels, at least on the surface, like a model environment in which Bamford can prove himself at the Premier League level.

Who wrote that dross? Jack Goodson? Oh. Pardon me while I have a cry.

To say Bamford's career derailed at Crystal Palace is, well, fancy speak for any number of expletives. It was an utter disaster.

Moving to Carrow Road feels better, I guess. Norwich require goals, throngs of them, and with a strike core that features Dieumerci Mbokani, Cameron Jerome and Steven Naismith, who isn't really a striker at all, maybe Bamford can indeed carve out a role under Alex Neil.

Still, I feel like I've been here before. Prove me wrong, Patrick.

Grade: C+

Marco van Ginkel
Christian Atsu
Charly Musonda

  • Destinations: PSV Eindhoven; Malaga; Real Betis
  • Fee: Loans (various)

Premier League loans are bad. Like Bamford, Van Ginkel and Atsu found England a most unholy land during the first half of the season. Atsu, in particular, endured a wretched time at Bournemouth, logging just two appearances, injuries stifling his development.

Both will seek better fortune abroad, Van Ginkel back in his native Netherlands and Atsu on the coast of Andalusia. With Andrés Guardado set to miss several weeks with a hamstring injury, Van Ginkel has a genuine chance to cement his place in the side. Meanwhile, Atsu simply requires minutes; let's hope he gets some (he failed to make his debut from the bench on Saturday).

Elsewhere, the loan army expanded ever so slightly when Musonda, linked with a move away from the club just a few months ago, agreed to an 18-month loan at Real Betis. Extended loan is good; no option to purchase is even better. Betis certainly need an injection of talent — winless in 12 matches, just two points above the relegation zone — so this has the potential to be a solid move all around.

Grade: C+

Radamel Falcao

  • Destination: Anywhere
  • Fee: We'll pay you

As long as a winter transfer window somewhere - anywhere - is open (a particularly money-flush one to the east springs to mind), the possibility of Chelsea ridding itself of the gnarled remnants of TAFNAF2 remains.

The club clearly want to move on. According to the rags, Falcao, not seen since October, agrees. Surely super-agent Jorge Mendes and his endless network of football cronies can facilitate a move out of London for the Colombian. Please?

Grade: Incomplete

Report Card

A historic on-field collapse during the opening half of the season left the Chelsea hierarchy in a precarious, almost no-win, position. Investing heavily in search of instant gratification, namely a surge toward Champions League qualification, always seemed far too risky a proposition considering the club's current position. Chelsea requires a substantial overhaul. Performing even modest surgery on a roster in January is challenging; doing so without a permanent manager, challenging and short-sighted.

As such, resisting the usual temptation to pursue major targets and postpone most movement until the summer was prudent. Still, it's hard not to feel like the club could have done more. An extremely raw prospect and another former top striker with everything to prove3 aren't exactly signings to warm the blue soul.

And while cashing in on Ramires was undoubtedly the right call, failing to replace him when the likes of Giannelli Imbula was readily available seems negligent at best, even if you believe Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ready for a more prominent role.

Late summer is when this club will truly be graded. For now, everything — and I do mean everything — remains unclear.

Grade: C


2. The Artist Formerly Known as Falcao

3. This approach really hasn't worked for us, has it?

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