Chelsea have had three major transfer calls to make in recent years, replacing their first-choice goalkeeper, replacing Diego Costa and resolving the contracts of senior defenders. It is fair to argue that the club have got all three wrong.
Where the blame lies is probably hard to fully answer, some will point to director Marina Granovskaia due to her power and familiarity with supporters. Despite not speaking much publicly, her face and quotes are always present during the announcement of any transfer or contract signing.
Granovskaia’s negotiating sometimes gets confused for scouting, a role she has never held at Stamford Bridge. For that, the responsibility lies with Scott McLachlan, head of Chelsea’s international scouting since 2011.
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More broadly, a combination of poor scouting and decision making has led to this point. Failing to secure Thibaut Courtois to a new deal in 2018, selling him for under £30 and replacing him with Kepa Arrizabalaga for a record £74m fee, a deal that simply has not worked out.
Losing Diego Costa after a fallout with Conte, a coach who would be gone in 12 months, replacing him with Alvaro Morata for £60m – a player who was loaned out to Atletico Madrid in under 18 months before being permanently sold to them. Getting close to the original fee paid for Morata should still be regarded as one of Granovskaia’s best deals. However, it did not soften the blow for the transfer not working out on the pitch.
The record-breaking purchase of Romelu Lukaku could lead to his swift departure under 12 months after that signing. He is reportedly unhappy with life at Stamford Bridge and wants a return to Inter Milan on loan. Just after Chelsea signed Lukaku, Tammy Abraham was sold to Roma for £34m along with a flurry of other academy graduates who could have aided the squad in 2021/22 and the rebuild this summer.
Then you come to the defensive contract crisis that saw four senior heads start the season with under a year left on their current deals. Thiago Silva committed his future to the club this January, but the failure to negotiate a deal with either Antonio Rudiger or Andreas Christensen meant that by the time the sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich impacted Chelsea, the chances of both players leaving felt high.
With both now gone for free, Chelsea now have no option but to invest in a new defender, maybe two, already in what is proving to be a very tricky summer under new ownership just getting their feet under the table.
Todd Boehly will hopefully be scanning back over recent years when looking at Chelsea’s transfer dealings and posing serious questions over how many big calls could all be judged soo poorly. There will be excuses made, as there always are.What the club couldn’t anticipate or the players themselves underperforming, which is fair. However, those in positions relevant to recruitment should be judged on results, just as coaches and players are.
Whether that means a more radical overhaul of personnel in scouting and negotiating is on the horizon is hard to anticipate. It is clear that something needs to change because getting all of these big calls wrong or allowing such awkward outcomes to unfold cannot be passed off as bad luck.