Chelsea recently sold Romelu Lukaku to Everton for a fee of £28 million whilst bringing in returning Stamford Bridge legend Didier Drogba on a free transfer. This was just the latest in a series of deals which has seen Mourinho refrain from his usual extravagance—and it is all part of his master plan.
Transfer fees have been increasingly uncontrollable for many years. At the turn of the 21st century, the world-record fee was £32 million as Christian Vieri made the switch from Lazio to Inter Milan. Within the decade that had more than doubled when Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 resulted in the jaw-dropping fee of £80 million.
Last year Gareth Bale topped that with his £86 million switch from Tottenham to the Galacticos and, had Suarez not earned himself a four-month ban, his move to Barcelona would no doubt have trumped Bale’s record. The world of football has truly become a mad place.
But these huge fees are not limited to experienced athletes who have proven they are the best of the best. At just 23 years of age James Rodriguez has already cost clubs €130 million in transfer fees. Players that many would regard as replaceable, such as Marouane Fellaini, Adam Lallana and the aforementioned Lukaku, are regularly exceeding the £25 million mark.
Over £450 million has been spent by Premier League teams in this window alone. Factor in the absurd weekly wages these players command and it’s easy to see that transfer spending has gotten out of control.
So why should Chelsea stop now?
Roman Abramovich’s club are certainly not short on funds. Ten years after the Russian oil tycoon took over in 2003, he had spent out £713 million on new signings.
With Manchester City boasting seemingly unlimited funds and Manchester United’s declaration that money is no object as they look to regain their status as title contenders, surely the last thing Chelsea want to do is fall behind the pack by counting pennies.
Mourinho, however, has other ideas. As of 2013/14, Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules state that clubs may no longer spend freely, with significant sanctions for persistent violators. As the initial punishments were handed out, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona were among those punished—all then-champions in their respective countries.
Barcelona were slapped with a transfer embargo that they eventually had suspended whilst the other two received hefty fines. It is likely that future punishments will show less tolerance, with point deductions a very real possibility.
What does this mean for the future of the market? Inevitably, spending will be curbed. Transfer fees and wages cannot continue to multiply like a virus without clubs incurring the wrath of UEFA—and Chelsea will be ahead of the trend.
Following the sales of Lukaku, David Luiz, Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea have made an excellent return on players that never featured in Jose’s long-term plans. Having brought in a number of desirable signings—including Drogba on a free transfer—the club find themselves well in line with FFP expectations.
Lukaku and De Bruyne are prime examples of Chelsea’s policy of mopping up young talent to flog them on at a profit. By loaning players out and letting them get the playing time they need to attract suitors, the West London outfit are able to make a healthy profit with minimal effort.
This will become increasingly common in the post-FFP era. It is a method that has drawn many critics. In an article from February of this year, Squawka columnist Sam Long said this:
The Portuguese revelation that players are purchased not to fulfil a career in West London, but purely to make a profit is a damning verdict of Chelsea’s operation.
The Blues’ have several highly rated youngsters on loan across Europe, including six at Vitesse in the Eredivisie, which makes a mockery of the transfer market as Chelsea have effectively set up a feeder club within another major European league.
Mourinho is unlikely to gain sympathy by continuing to play the victim card when he is clearly at one of the few clubs in England that holds all of the aces.
Mourinho has wasted little time in lambasting the free-spending policies that he himself has utilised throughout his managerial career. After Manchester United pipped the Blues to the £27 million signing of promising left-back Luke Shaw, Mourinho claimed that the 19-year-old’s wage demands would have “killed” the club.
If we pay to a 19-year-old boy what we were being asked for, to sign Luke Shaw, we are dead. We would have killed our stability with financial fair play and killed the stability in our dressing room.
Because when you pay that much to a 19-year-old kid—a good player, fantastic player—but when you pay that amount of money, the next day, we would have had players knocking on our door.
It would’ve killed immediately our balance and we couldn’t allow that. I don’t criticise another club for paying it. They can pay what they want. I don’t have any comment about it. But for my club we can say it would be very negative for us, especially when we can say Felipe is much less expensive. Sometimes you have to make decisions.
This carefully delivered statement built on his comments in January 2014, when he questioned other teams’ approach to the FFP rulings.
“Some clubs are feeling financial fair play as 'fair' financial fair play and others are feeling FFP as a 'dodgy' financial fair play,” he surmised in his typically honest yet antagonising manner.
With this he drew a clear division between Chelsea taking the ruling seriously and other clubs not doing so. In the following months and seasons he will no doubt crank up the pressure on UEFA to make examples of serial offenders.
It will be some time before UEFA hand out punishments that are harsh enough for the clubs in question to fall in line. If a club like Paris Saint-Germain can afford to spend over €60 million on a player, then they can weather a €60 million fine. When transfer embargoes and point deductions begin to come into play, however, policies will have to alter drastically.
Chelsea already have a squad capable of challenging for the title. Having secured Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas among others, they are in a terrific position in terms of the players at their disposal and the financial leverage they have manufactured. Unless their rivals quickly catch on and follow suit, Mourinho’s boys will soon enter their second era of dominance in the Premier League.