Manchester City and Chelsea are often cited as the two clubs that were inspirations for UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. The ownership of both clubs have been accused of “hurting football” thanks to big spending, and have been the object of ire from opposing clubs supporters due to the obscene amount of money both Chelsea and Manchester City have thrown at players. The two sides face off Saturday in a clash that could determine the 2014-15 Premier League title.
The two teams have been forced to trim spending to comply with FFP but have taken differing yet creative approaches. Both clubs have had a clear vision and plan to deal with the obstacles and challenges created by the implementation of FFP.
Chelsea has opted to sign many players at a young age and loan them to other clubs. The Blues have 25 players out on loan and most of these are youngsters who are unlikely to ever feature in the first team. Some like Patrick Bamford and Nathaniel Chalobah clearly have an upside where they can contribute positively to numerous clubs in England. But neither is likely to ever feature in a fixture with Chelsea’s first team.
The Blues have also bought aggressively in the age range of 21-25 so they can flip players quickly when their resale values increase. The recent sales of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin DeBruyne, Juan Mata and David Luiz, as well as the impending sale of André Schürrle, demonstrate how savvy Chelsea has been in the transfer market. In each case, an expensive and highly-touted player was bought from abroad and sold within three years of being bought at a profit.
By comparison, Manchester City have bought older players, most of whom have little resale value. The club had locked down the core of the side minus Yaya Toure to long-term deals so that they do not have to spend as much in the transfer market, though dipping into the January window for the pricey Wilfried Bony seems to be a deviation from the plan. By and large though, the Citizens have kept the core of the side intact since winning the league in the 2011-12 season, buying players for depth or attempting to upgrade what was an uncertain central midfield situation.
The club has also invested big in a new training facility and youth academy. City’s hope is that the club can use its superior facilities and resources to develop homegrown talent with an eye toward being able to develop a number of regulars for the first time like Barcelona and Bayern Munich have been able to do for years now. This vision of the club includes finding talented players abroad between the ages of 15-17 and bringing them to Manchester as early as possible so they can count under Premier League rules as “homegrown.”
The one thing that can be said with some degree of certainty is that FFP is forcing a large degree of creativity in how clubs are run these days. Both Chelsea and Manchester City with differing approaches might have found a formula that works that keep both clubs compliant within the legal framework that every management team now has to live under.