Chelsea weren’t the first club in world football to develop a business plan around the idea of player loans — we only have to look to Italy and Parma’s 100-strong contingent around the turn of the millennium, for example — but the Emenalo Master Plan certainly made plenty of headlines and set plenty of narratives on their way. It’s also a system that got emulated by others, and one from which we continue to generate revenue, which is helpful considering that player trading is a massive part of the club’s annual balance sheet.
But the days of the Loan Army are numbered. FIFA’s long-planned reforms are set to take effect next summer (barring any further delays, pandemics, or recessions), and Chelsea have been reducing our numbers over the past few years, especially among older players (who are most impacted by the new rules). Meanwhile, the players themselves have gotten less and less in keen on these temporary moves, be that for sporting reasons, perceived career-stability, or development pathways.
So as the landscape evolves, Chelsea must evolve, too. And this summer we’re starting to see the clear direction in which we’re evolving: the Buy-back Army. That’s not a new idea either, and one that many of us have been advocating for a while now, but it’s certainly nice to see the club go down that route as well (and with much greater intention than the afterthought as it may or may not have been in the cases of Nathan Aké, Nathaniel Chalobah, or Jérémie Boga).
The latest youngster set to join the likes of Tammy Abraham and Tino Livramento is Tino Anjorin, who’s expected to finalize his move to Lokomotiv Moscow in the new few hours, and while there is conflicting reporting about whether it’s a transfer with a buy-back or a loan with a buy-option and subsequent buy-back (covering all bases!), the point is that we’ve ensured a potential return route for the highly promising Academy product. It’s not a guarantee, but it maintains the clear possibility, should both parties be willing.
Given that our Academy produces far more top quality talent than we could ever realistically use, making smart use of buy-back clauses should help us retain that advantage, while also providing better development pathways for the players themselves.