Chelsea FC: A Disaster Waiting to Happen?
Since the arrival of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich at Chelsea in 2003, and chief executive Peter Kenyon in 2004, I've long been sceptical about the club's ambitious desire to become a commercial power house and a global brand around the world.
In this ruthless quest to become the greatest club on the map will their big spending, sacking of capable managers, disregard for the academy and eagerness for instant success see them fall from grace before they have reached the pinnacle of footballing success that they crave so dearly?
No doubt their long term ambition is to become the equivalent of clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid—with global recognition, a large fan base, a star studded squad, commercial success and financial viability coming along with success on the pitch.
That's why the players, staff, and fans at Stamford Bridge consistently set the standard so high each season.
But what Sir Alex achieved at United took the best part of a decade. Somehow, the Chelsea contingent believe it's possible to eclipse or even come close to that achievement—even with little regard for the development of the youth system, and how financially feasible their excessive spending is for the club as a business in the long run.
Since 2003 Chelsea's spending has exceeded £353.3 million on new players alone, and they have won only six domestic trophies. Is that money well spent?
As with every club, managers misjudge how players can fit into the team. But with Chelsea the transition to the team they are today has encountered an extensive list of expensive errors.
Juan Sebastian Veron, Mateja Kezman, Adrian Mutu, Hernan Crespo, and Damien Duff are just some of the players regarded as failures at the Bridge, whose combined transfer fees reached a staggering £62.9 million.
How can that kind of spending be sustainable?
What should trouble Chelsea fans the most is the longevity of their squad. Nine of the current first team are over 30 years old. So in less than five years another squad will presumably have to be assembled by current boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.
So will that possibly mean another transitional period, where a dip in form and results is likely?
The Chelsea board have shown what can only be described as a ruthless attitude in pursuit of footballing glory. An example of this comes in the statistic that they have had four managers in six years.
Despite Claudio Ranieri initially leading Chelsea to their best ever finish in the 2002-2004 season, he was deemed unsuitable to take them to the next level.
Jose Mourinho was arguably one of the most successful in the history of the club, yet Chelsea parted with him after tensions rose behind the scenes.
More recently, Avram Grant took Chelsea further than they've ever been in the Champions League, and to their best ever finish without actually winning the EPL—and still got sacked.
Is it not an issue when the board are willing to sack proven and capable managers who don't immediately deliver what they expect?
After all, it was patience of the board at Manchester United that saved Sir Alex Ferguson his job, when he was on the verge of getting sacked in 1992. Patience is key to success, and look what happened to United since then.
Chelsea have so far failed to demonstrate a similar level of faith in their managers, and that can’t be good news for the future.
Talking about the future, I doubt the days of producing the next John Terry through the academy are still rife at the club.
With the millions spent on the first team, how many are convinced there is an infrastructure at Chelsea that can produce great players for the future from their academy and reserves?
Notable youngsters from the Chelsea team, including Ben Sahar and Scott Sinclair, were on the fringes of the first team last season—and even they were signed from other clubs.
Some are also aware of the reality football show they were a part of, Football Icon, where Chelsea scouts scoured the country in search of one talented youngster to join their academy.
In my opinion, this just appeared to be a desperate attempt by the club to appear to still value the importance of young talent and let’s face it, it didn't make for interesting television either.
Even if a batch of youngsters came through next month, do they have a realistic chance of breaking into the first team? Probably not.
I'm saying potentially all these factors could be disastrous for Chelsea in the long term. Abramovich won't be around with his billions forever, and at some point you have to eclipse your expenditure to be a success business wise.
The youth system at any big club should still be working efficiently. That's how a first team can continue to challenge realistically, even through the transitional period of players going out, and new ones coming in.
Chelsea's quest for world domination may have lost the club their true identity already. Whilst my points are possibly worst case scenario for the London club, I'm yet to be convinced they will be the best football club in the world in the next five years.
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