Chelsea announced a £65.7m loss for last year, a staggering sum, particularly as it marks an improvement over the loose-pursed past. Though the tangible sum is less, the impact will be felt more, after Roman Abramovich as billionaire Roman Abramovich potentially lost the bulk of his fortune.
Abramovich’s woes have already affected Chelsea. The Russian owner gutted the scouting department, and considered forcing players to pay for their own lunches. His own contribution, the £23.1 million paid to Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant not to manage the club, undoubtedly escaped censure.
The summer will see changes, especially if Chelsea do not qualify for the Champions League. The primary target will be the substantial wage bill, £148.5m – Manchester United’s is just over £100m. The payroll accounts for over 70% of Chelsea’s turnover.
Chariman Peter Kenyon admitted there would be sales in the summer.
“Any squad structuring in the summer will be funded prominently by sales,” Kenyon told the Telegraph. “We have set ourselves ambitious targets, to require zero cash funding from the owner at the beginning of the financial year 2009-10.
The question then is not whether Chelsea sell, but who they will sell. The first group, whatever the transfer fees, will be the malcontents.
Didier Drogba comes immediately to mind. Making nearly £100,000 per week, he has scored three goals in 18 appearances this season. He’s not the 2006-07 dynamo, nor is he even the occasionally effective player from last year. His performance alone warrants an exit. Add his abrasive personality and he’s a net negative waiting to be excised.
Florent Malouda is another candidate for dismissal. He’s been the mystery man, so awesome before he came and so terrible since he arrived. Only the illustrious Shevchenko saves Malouda from being the biggest transfer disaster of the past few seasons. He can’t make the squad regularly and does not deserve to do so. Chelsea should sell him before everyone sees him as irredeemable.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech could be on his way out as well. He’s been off the pace this season. He really has not been right since his horrifying head injury. Cech was one of the players who reportedly submarined Scolari. He has played poorly. He is expensive. You can get a goalkeeper for cheaper.
If Chelsea are looking for straight ego excision, they may try to offload Anelka, Deco and Michael Ballack as well.
Chelsea may want rid of these players, but they won’t get very much money for them. If they are looking for instant book-balancing, or a substantial restructuring kitty, a marketable asset, one they’d like to keep, may be required.
Barring sentiment, John Terry should be the prominent candidate here. He’s not leaving England, so his market value is limited, but Manchester City seem to want him and £40m figures are floating through the rumor mill. Purely as a player, he’s replaceable. If Chelsea can get even £20m for him while removing his salary from the books, they should do so. Peter Kenyon says Chelsea won’t sell Terry. Who knows if Peter Kenyon will be there?
Michael Essien may fit here as well. Chelsea won’t want to sell Essien. Assuming he recovers from his injury, he’s their best midfielder. He’s versatile. He can hold with the backline or move forward and make plays. He would feature in any team in the world’s starting XI. At just 26 years old, every big side in Europe could use him. If Chelsea want substantial restructuring money, that may be their only option.
Chelsea have a hodgepodge squad, constructed with conflicting visions. What they really need is a long-term manager who can work with a reasonable budget to refashion a coherent squad, possibly David Moyes. Does a liquidity-crazed Roman Abramovich have the patience?