During the 2014 calendar year, Chelsea have been something rarely associated with the club in recent history, that being "prudent."
Under the second-time stewardship of Jose Mourinho, the Blues are spending within their means—not the usual trek found at Stamford Bridge. Since Roman Abramovich purchased the club in 2003, the west London side have been notorious for spending massive amounts on players and coaches. This new Chelsea, however, have upheld the logic: "Don't purchase what you can buy; buy what you can afford."
While UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) has strengthened the resolve for such actions, in Abramovich's 12th year the notion of self-sufficiency should be paramount.
Chelsea must find a way to expand their brand, increase revenue and be sensible in the transfer market, as their Russian windfall cannot be relied upon forever. In a whim, Abramovich could remove his presence from Stamford Bridge—and then what?
The easiest step in the transition is judicious spending. A task which looks to be in effect this year.
Incredibly, the Blues spent a supposed £103.1 million to purchase Nemanja Matic (£21 million), Mohamed Salah (£11 million), Kurt Zouma (£12.5 million), Diego Costa (£32 million) and Cesc Fabregas (£26.6 million).
Stamford Bridge's numerical congruity is impressive, but what makes the numbers novel are the players bought and sold.
Mata—while a maestro extraordinaire under Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafael Benitez—was not a fit in the physically demanding Mourinho ethic. Manchester United felt they needed playmaking and bought the frustrated substitute for £37.1 million. De Bruyne found himself in a similar predicament and when VfL Wolfsburg came knocking with £16 million, it must have seemed an automatic decision to sell.
Incoming transfers during the January window flashed the opening stages of Mourinho's second Chelsea blueprint.
Matic has proven to be one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe over the past 18 months. His return to London made for rather embarrassing headlines but the Serbian's play on the pitch—particularly against Manchester City—left contrarians distinctly quiet. Salah received a five-month Premier League acclimation course, displaying his rampant pace en route to registering two goals and two assists in 10 appearances.
One not so fortunate was Kurt Zouma. Bought from Saint Etienne, the starlet was loaned back to his previous club. Not having any time in the Premier League may hurt Zouma's English adjustment, but with Tomas Kalas to be loaned to Cologne, per ESPN FC, the French defender may be receiving a lifeline from Mourinho.
Chelsea's sensible expenditures have continued this summer; Samuel Eto'o's expensive wage bill has been axed from the budget, along with club legends/ambassadors Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
It seems Paris Saint-Germain are deciding to ignore FFP; the French side offered upwards of £50 million for Brazilian international Luiz—making him the world's most expensive defender. The Blues utilised Luiz in a more advanced position, as his proclivity for attacking created gaps in defence. Receiving such a lucrative offer from the Parisians must have ignited equal bouts of excitement and laughter in Chelsea's west London offices.
The notion Lampard can be "replaced" is nonsense. Chelsea's all-time leading scorer and fourth all time in appearances, Lampard's Stamford Bridge tenure was nothing short of prolific.
Yet the fact remains someone must follow the England international, as playing with 10 men is not an option. The Blues solved for "x" and found Barcelona's auxiliary midfielder Cesc Fabregas the solution.
Bought for nearly £27 million, the Spanish international's inclusion may signal a willingness to abandon the 4-2-3-1 and play a 4-3-3 (4-1-2-3) to accommodate Matic, Oscar and the rest of Chelsea's midfield talent. A welcome sight for many supporters.
If Mourinho figured out anything last season, defence was the item. While a long-term replacement for Cole will be needed in the near future, the starting full-back pair of Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic looks serviceable for another season (especially when Ryan Bertrand or Patrick van Aanholt could provide cover in cup ties).
What cannot last for another year, however, is lacklustre centre-forward play.
Should the Spanish striker adapt to the Premier League, in such a fashion where his Atletico form is replicable, Mourinho will have solved the glaring issue plaguing his team's barren 2013-14 campaign—goals from strikers.
It would be presumptuous to declare the Blues are spending wisely in 2014.
How new pieces are to be integrated and old pieces to be maintained remains a mystery. Moreover, with transfer deadline day still looming, Abramovich has time yet to open his substantial bank vault for another marquee signing.
So what can we say? Something simple really: Chelsea sold three surplus players and purchased five players in key areas—all while breaking even.
If Mourinho is no longer special, what then shall we call him?
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