THE January transfer window ‘shutting’ always had an anti-climax sound to it. That was until this week when Chelsea smashed the window with their record-breaking spending spree.
The West-End club spent £323m (€363m) on transfers last month which was more than the entire spend of the Spanish, Italian, German and French leagues combined.
Enzo Fernandez: £105m (€119m).
Malo Gusto: £26.3m (€29m), (loan back to Lyon for remainder of 22/23 season).
Noni Madueke: £35m (€39m).
Mykhailo Mudryk: £88m (€98m).
Benoit Badiashile: £33.7m (€37m).
Joao Felix (six-month loan): £9.7m (€11m) fee plus 100% wages (no option to buy).
Andrey Santos: £11m (€12m).
David Datro Fofana: £10m (€11m).
To put it another way, and even in more stark terms, Joao Felix’s loan move to Chelsea is more than Brentford, Brighton, Everton, Fulham, Manchester City and Manchester United’s entire spend this month.
The £105m (€119m) acquisition from Benfica saw Enzo Fernandez become the most expensive player in Premier League history, and with the £200m odd spent on the seven other players in this window, the question has to be with such spending, are Chelsea still working within Uefa’s Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP)?
And the answer is, yes, but not really. Instead Chelsea are playing a long game of kicking the financial can down the road in the hope that one of the many players they bought to kick a football around the field pays off to such an extent that it recuperates such exaggerated spending.
Implemented at the start of the 2011-12 season, Uefa’s FFP regulations were designed to prevent football clubs recklessly spending more than they earn in pursuit of success. Sanctioning those clubs found to have overspent.
The rules allow only a £53m (€60m) loss over a rolling three-year period. The Premier League’s own FFP rules allow clubs a loss of £105m over a three-year period.
With Fernandez arrival, new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly will have overseen a spend of £600m since his takeover in May 2022, yet they appear to have stayed within the Uefa guidelines.
How they stay within the rules, technically, is called amortisation, and by way of example let’s look at Mykhailo Mudryk’s new Chelsea deal. He arrives at The Bridge on an eight-and-a-half-year contract, the way it is dealt with, for accounting and FFP purposes, is you take his £88m cost and you divide that over eight-and-a-half-years, and it works out that you just spent over £10m-a-year. So Chelsea spread the transfer fee they paid Shakthar Donetsk for the Ukrainian across that period in their accounts. A modest outlay in comparison to a straight up payment.
The Malo Gusto transfer is different though, and I’m not sure what much benefit that is for Chelsea, as they are paying £26m to Lyon only for him to go back to Lyon on loan for the rest of the season, meanwhile Chelsea pay his full wages. Sweet deal for Lyon.
Back to the stretched timeline contracts for FFP purposes. There is an inherent risk to offering such long contracts. If the purchased player fails to perform to the desirability of the club and the fans, Chelsea are left with a player they may no longer want on the books, paying him a full wage, on a contract that can last the remainder of a decade, an asset depreciating with every match he doesn’t play.
Another, more immediate risk, is that Chelsea’s levels of spending now and in the future, may hinge on whether they are able to qualify for Europe this season. As Champions League regulars, the club has traditionally had the assurance of the significant financial boost that competing in the biggest cup competition in the world brings, but a place in the Europa League, or missing out entirely, would mean Chelsea’s revenues take a hit and thus limit further transfer shenanigans and leaving The Pensioner with a lot of expensive talent just sitting on the bench.
As it is, Chelsea have more players on the books than they can actually register for the Champions League squad.
And remember, ahead of last night’s match against neighbours Fulham, Chelsea were steadfastly stuck in 10th place in the Premier League, a long way off fourth place and the last Champions League lifeboat.
So will other clubs start doing these 10-year deals to get out of FFP regulations.? I suspect that left long enough to their own devices they would. But Uefa are set to change the amortisation rules in the summer, limiting clubs to only a five-year spread of transfer costs. Which may just be enough to save English Premier League clubs from themselves.