Does Demba Ba's Signing Spell a Return to Chelsea's Old Transfer Policy?
This summer will mark the 10th anniversary of Roman Abramovich's takeover at Chelsea. In that time, the club has witnessed unprecedented change—namely in their transfer activity, which has seen the Blues break records in their bid to bring success back to west London.
It has worked, too, with three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown—let alone a host of other major trophies in that time—all a fine example of the impact Abramovich's wealth has had at Stamford Bridge.
But whereas most early signings in the Abramovich era were household names, few were so-called marquee stars. Take Glenn Johnson, the first Abramovich signing by then manager Claudio Ranieri.
The Russian's arrival in English football brought with it an expectation of expensive star signings, but what followed wasn't exactly on the scale many predicted.
Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Geremi, Claude Makelele, Wayne Bridge and Adrian Mutu all joined Chelsea in the summer of 2003. All were known as being talented players, but if anything were rising rising stars in the game rather than established. Even Makelele would only earn the widespread respect of the media and football fans that his talents deserved while at Chelsea.
The signings of Hernan Crespo and Juan Veron were exceptions, but the policy was certainly one aimed at development, bringing in up-and-coming players eager to achieve greatness. Some fell by the wayside, but in Duff and Cole, Chelsea had two players who would become an integral part of its fabric throughout their time at Stamford Bridge.
A similar approach was taken when Jose Mourinho replaced Ranieri the following year—with Petr Cech and Arjen Robben (although both were technically Ranieri signings, signed during his time at Chelsea) added to the squad along with Didier Drogba, Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho. They were known and respected players, but certainly not stars' by any stretch.
And that is perhaps what is most intriguing about Ba's capture. Chelsea lost their way somewhat in apparent attempts to replicate Real Madrid's Galacticos generation when they started signing the likes of Andriy Shevchenko for record transfer fees.
Whereas the club's previous policy had made stars of the players they signed, Chelsea were beginning to bring established names to Stamford Bridge. And in the case of Shevchenko and others, it backfired.
When the club was linked with a major financial outlay on Atletico Madrid's free-scoring Falcao this January, they instead opted to exploit Ba's reported £7 million release clause in his Newcastle United contract.
Indeed, a move for Falcao may be on hold until the summer, but in Ba they have a striker with all the attributes and potential to become a global star those before him, such as Drogba, became while at Chelsea. If he matches Drogba's goal-scoring record, the Senegalese man could save the club £45 million.
Ba's signing by Chelsea is about much more than Torres. It's about a club looking to build for the future. Now if Chelsea can just stop firing its managers.
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