Chelsea’s need to offload literally half a team from a bloated first-team squad of well over 30 players, many of whom are also close to or already on the wrong side of 30, seems to be going surprisingly well so far, helped greatly by the sudden desire of the Saudi Pro League (SPL) to gain international relevance by (continuing to) overspend on big name players (with only Lionel Messi and Romelu Lukaku rejecting their advances so far, though Messi got arguably an even better deal from MLS and their sponsors and stakeholders). And unlike the Chinese Super League a decade ago, the SPL are doing it with not only the backing of their state, but with the direct involvement of their practically bottomless state funds by way of the Public Investment Fund (PIF). (See also: pro golf.)
As per reports, Chelsea are expecting to collect “upwards of £50m” for the transfers of Hakim Ziyech, Kalidou Koulibaly, Édouard Mendy, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — players on whom we spent about twice as much in total, with K2 and Auba arriving just twelve months ago for €40m and €12m, respectively. So it’s not like we’re getting some amazing net windfall here, though it’s certainly decent business, on the face of it, even if it barely makes a dent in our books being nine figures in the red.
Clearlake and PIF have an excellent relationship. And the latter are driving many high-profile moves to Saudi on behalf of Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, and Al-Ahli. #CFC see an opportunity to offload some players to Saudi. And PIF have multiple Chelsea players on their radar. pic.twitter.com/UBqdWBGKzc— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) June 17, 2023
As we’ve seen repeatedly since Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital have taken ownership of Chelsea, our new owners’ ability to forge relationships and take advantage of existing and new business connections have paved the way for many of the deals they’ve engineered since — though whether we’ve gotten more “good” deals than “bad” ones is up for debate. And that’s also the case here, which has already led to some speculation about influence one way or another, even if those involved insist otherwise. (Clearlake have hundreds of clients and manage many billions in various funds; PIF have investments in hundreds of assets and have relationships with many funds; etc.)
But Chelsea’s good fortune (perhaps also of our own making to some extent) is being looked upon with envious eyes from certain corners, with the Telegraph reporting that our “European rivals” are “calling for fair market investigations into Saudi Arabia’s dramatic haul of big money signings”. The impending €55m transfer of Rúben Neves from Wolverhampton to Al Hilal also hasn’t passed their sniff test apparently — though it’s ironic that neither Wolves nor Chelsea will be playing any European football for at least twelve months, having finished 13th and 12th last season, respectively.
The report does not name the names of these very concerned citizen-clubs, but apparently “one leading European rival suggested ‘live investigations’ into all the Saudi deals were needed from UEFA due to the scale of potential player investments”.
Of course, UEFA already got thine proverbial legs twisted in their hoses over Chelsea’s 8-year contracts earlier this year, quickly adjusting FFP regulations to allow only for 5-year amortization periods.
Will they get all antsy in their pantsy over this new “loophole” as well? Stay tuned!
(And really, we should be crediting Behdad Eghbali for this one, probably, but The Toddmeister is still the face of the operation, so we’re going with that.)