Christian Pulisic could continue a Chelsea transfer trend potentially worth $258m, painting a damning picture of the current landscape for FSG and Liverpool.
A couple of weeks back, the Premier League fixtures for the upcoming season were released, and Liverpool discovered that it would be traveling to Chelsea on the opening weekend.
This is always one of the most anticipated match-ups of the season, but this year it’s particularly intriguing because both teams underachieved so heavily last year.
Liverpool slipped out of the top four after previously competing for the title, but Chelsea’s drop-off was another level entirely. With four different coaches in the dugout throughout the season, the Blues wound up in a dismal 12th place, the lowest finish of any elite side in the ‘big six’ era.
Chelsea has now appointed a permanent successor to Graham Potter in Mauricio Pochettino, widely viewed as one of the best managers in Europe, but the club remains in a state of flux. Right now, with the squad still a long way from taking shape, it’s hard to judge their prospects for next season.
Liverpool may have been hoping that the Blues would be weakened by the constraints of Financial Fair Play in light of a record-breaking $767m (£600m/€698m) spending spree that looked certain to catch up with them.
The Times was warning as early as March that Chelsea would require a summer ‘fire sale’ to ensure compliance with the rules, and that has come to pass, but not in the way that most expected.
Remarkably, despite its widely-publicized predicament, Chelsea has been able to sell players for largely excellent prices and on its terms.
Arsenal has agreed to pay up to $83m/£65m/€76m to sign Kai Havertz (via BBC Sport), coming unexpectedly close to Chelsea’s $90m (£71m/€83m) 2020 outlay after the German’s difficult stint at Stamford Bridge. In 139 appearances for the club, he’s only managed 32 goals and 15 assists.
Chelsea hopes to fetch the same fee for Mason Mount, who was looked at by Liverpool but was closer to joining Manchester United. The Times reports that Manchester United is set to move away from Mount because the price has got too high, but if there is a compromise to be reached, Chelsea has already turned down as much as $70m (£55m/€64m), which itself would have been a magnificent fee for a player who’s about to enter the final 12 months of his contract and could have walked for free shortly.
Elsewhere, Manchester City has struck a $38m (£30m/€35m) deal for Mateo Kovačić (via The Athletic), another player who had one year left and at 29, was exiting the ideal age range.
Then some players are bound for the Saudi Pro League. Kalidou Koulibaly, the 32-year-old widely regarded as a disappointment following his move from Napoli last summer, and Édouard Mendy, who’s fallen behind Kepa Arrizabalaga in the goalkeeping ranks, are poised to net $22m (£17m/€20m) apiece when they join Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli respectively.
The only underwhelming fee is the $10m (£8m/€9m) Chelsea is poised to receive for Hakim Ziyech, but he’s become ‘disgruntled’ in London after playing less than 1,000 minutes last season, and the main thing was to find him a new club.
And ultimately, Chelsea can still be delighted with a proposed return of $258m from player sales, with more to come. Romelu Lukaku, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, and Marc Cucurella could all depart too.
Mission player sales has been a roaring success*
Next: Mendy (£17m?), Mount (£60m?), Lukaku, Aubameyang, Hudson-Odoi, Pulisic, Cucurella.
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) June 22, 2023
What will FSG, another of the league’s most prominent US owners, make of these developments?
Well, you feel as if it will only strengthen their desire to find a suitable investor for Liverpool.
If FSG fears that it can’t compete in the long-term with clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City (that’s part of the reason it sought a minority sale in the first place), and if the former follows an unprecedented spending spree with a swift and lucrative clearout to solve the potential problem, then it will paint a somewhat damning picture of the ease with which these clubs can navigate the current regulatory landscape.
Maybe the Premier League’s proposed spending cap will aid matters, but we’ve yet to see what exact form that will take, or indeed whether it will be implemented at all.
In the current environment, without effective limitations, there are fears that FSG’s self-sustaining model will be swallowed up.
It is, after all, a period in which it feels increasingly as if significant investment is needed to support the operation and keep Liverpool at the top.