An obvious disclaimer: two weeks into the summer transfer window, there is absolutely no need for Chelsea supporters to panic over the club’s inaction in the market thus far. None whatsoever.
However, what is justifiable is concern that the upheaval behind the scenes is slowing business down at what has become a crucial juncture, less than a month after transfer-blocking sanctions on the club were lifted.
The timing of this week’s boardroom reshuffle is questionable; it was announced on Wednesday that chief transfer negotiator Marina Granovskaia – one of Roman Abramovich’s trusted lieutenants – is leaving the club, although she will remain available for the rest of the summer window.
It does feel as though that is something that could have waited until the summer was out of the way. Even if Granoskaia is continuing to work on an ad hoc basis, her imminent departure serves as a huge distraction at what is surely the busiest time of year in her role.
New owner Todd Boehly – who is still based in the US – will operate as interim sporting director while the search is ongoing for a replacement.
While in normal circumstances you wouldn’t necessarily have expected any top club to have made a marquee signing by this point, you can’t help but feel that Chelsea’s plans will have been set back by the announcement (and the sanctions) – even if their primary targets were established long ago.
The clearest indication of that is perhaps the turgid negotiations over Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. Chelsea had been confident that he would be the first face through the door under new ownership, but talks have dragged on and the Frenchman’s representatives are now growing frustrated with a perceived lack of effort to wrap up the deal.
90min understands Chelsea hope to complete the transfer by early July, but even that seems slow-moving given that the Blues had been on the verge of signing the defender almost a year ago – and Barcelona are waiting in the wings should anything go awry.
Matters do appear to be more positive at the other end of the pitch. Rightly or wrongly, new owner Todd Boehly and head coach Thomas Tuchel have moved quickly to shift wantaway striker Romelu Lukaku, and a number of targets have been identified by way of replacement.
Listen now to 90min’s Talking Transfers podcast, with Scott Saunders, Graeme Bailey, Harry Symeou & Toby Cudworth. On the latest show they discuss Newcastle’s decision to pull out of a deal for Hugo Ekitike and offer the latest on Arsenal’s pursuit of Gabriel Jesus. Available on all audio platforms and the 90min YouTube channel.
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However, barring a change of heart from Barcelona-smitten Robert Lewandowski, there is simply not a top-level striker on the market; Manchester City tied up a deal for Erling Haaland months ago, and Liverpool pounced to snatch Darwin Nunez from under Manchester United’s noses. Under government sanctions when most of these negotiations were ongoing, Chelsea were never really in the picture.
It seems they will instead be forced to go in search of players who can score and assist from the wide areas to reinforce the attack, with current, under-performing incumbents Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic in the shop window.
Raheem Sterling, Ousmane Dembele and Antony are the outstanding targets, and given their stature some urgency will be required with each in order to complete what would be a marquee signing for the new ownership – especially with Man Utd interested in the latter.
Chelsea were always likely to be playing catch-up this summer, but the steps taken towards signing Sterling, for example, suggest there is a willingness to make up the ground. A move for a second centre-back is also in the pipeline following the exits of both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. A potential player-plus-cash deal for Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt – which also gets Werner off the books – would be a shrewd piece of business.
There is no need to panic, and it seems the ball is finally rolling – but Chelsea now need to accelerate their summer business to avoid disappointment come deadline day.
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