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Billy Gilmour was part of the reason for Chelsea’s transfer ban, now he’s flourishing because of it

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4-D chess, baby

Chelsea FC v Liverpool FC - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

It was around this time last year that the news came down from FIFA mountain: Chelsea had been banned for the next two transfer windows (and fined, too, but that’s pocket change). And while Chelsea eventually appealed successfully (to CAS) to get the ban cut in half, we effectively served out the full sentence anyway since we didn’t sign anyone in January.

Into that vacuum have stepped a veritable plethora of young players, most long-time members of the Chelsea Academy. One of the exceptions to that trend has been Billy Gilmour, who’s as young as any of them, if not even more so, but he only joined the club in 2017, when he turned 16.

Not three years later, he’s turning all the heads, especially after his Man of the Match performance against league-leaders Liverpool in the FA Cup this week. It was only his 6th appearance for the first-team; it might as well have been his 60th.

Gilmour has been roundly praised for Tuesday’s efforts, but if you read the headline, you can guess where this piece is going. Gilmour, who counted as an “international” signing for FIFA’s purposes since the English and Scottish Football Associations are separate entities, was one of the players involved in the transfer ban case. And it’s actually very easy to figure out how he factored in, even though no names were ever used during the legal proceedings.

Chelsea were hit with 29 breaches of Article 19, with the specific players involved identified only by numbers 1-29. These counted for the bulk of the violations. But Chelsea were also hit with two counts of breaching Article 18bis, which is the bit about third-party influence.

Basically, FIFA claimed that in the process of arranging future transfers, Chelsea exerted undue influence on another team by preventing them from operating autonomously and making decisions regarding one of their own players on their own. And while some, including Chelsea in the appeal, might argue that’s an unavoidable side-effect or agreeing a future transfer (Chelsea reserved veto power over any loan moves for said players in the interim, for example), FIFA did not see it that way.

More pertinently to this story, FIFA identified these two cases not by numbers, but by the other teams involved: Ajax and, you guessed it, Rangers. The Ajax player in question is probably Juan Familia-Castillo (now back with Ajax, ironically); the Rangers kid is undoubtedly Billy G. Chelsea hadn’t signed anyone from Rangers since the ‘90s (Nigel Spackman in 1992?) before young Gilmour made the southbound journey a few years ago.

So, Chelsea agreed to sign Gilmour, then ensured that Rangers wouldn’t do something altogether silly with him. As FIFA note, somewhat to their credit, they realize that teams enter such common-sense agreements all the time, but apparently never in such a formalized manner — and we couldn’t do a sign-and-loan-back like with Christian Pulisic and BVB, since Gilmour wasn’t yet 17.

Obviously Gilmour wasn’t the only reason Chelsea were banned (FIFA investigated Chelsea’s dealings with over 92 players just for Article 19 violations alone), but he played his part. Now he’s set to play an even bigger part in something that matters even more — and no, I don’t mean another Burberry fashion shoot (see also: Ruben Loftus-Cheek).

G’wan, Billy G!