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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Chelsea braced for Todd Boehly era as top executives are shown the door

New owner Boehly has cleared out all the top executives at the club and will act as interim sporting director. Working alongside manager Thomas Tuchel during this transfer season, he will try to get the club to contend for the Premier League again.

Boehly, Tuchel, and co. have their hands full in the transfer market this summer if Chelsea are to contend for the top prize in English football this year. (Twitter/Chelsea FC)

Chelsea announced on Monday that legendary former Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech has stepped down from his role as the technical and performance advisor. Cech follows in the footsteps of former executives Marina Granovskaia and Bruce Buck, whose exits were confirmed last week.

Former head of goalkeepers Christophe Lollichon and chief executive Guy Laurence have also departed the club over the summer.

Cech joined Chelsea three years ago, and since then, he has played a key role by being the bridge between the club’s sporting leadership and executives. He has also been the face of the club’s executives to its fans. Buck, who will continue to serve the club as an advisor, steps down from his role as chairman after 20 years.

The biggest shakeup in the Blues’ hierarchy, however, is the removal of former director Granovskaia. A trusted deputy of former owner Roman Abramovich, there were always murmurs over whether she would continue at Chelsea after the Russian’s close links to Vladimir Putin compelled him to sell the club in wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

But Granovskaia has played a key role in shaping the club’s transfer policy that allowed them to become a European super club over the last 20 years, with a reportedly ruthless negotiating style, and plenty of stubbornness in the market.

With her replacement to be hired imminently, the Todd Boehly-led new ownership seems to be heading into an entirely new direction in the transfer market, looking to stamp their authority on the club in tandem with manager Thomas Tuchel to make it contend for the Premier League title again.

The new owners

In a deal reportedly worth over $4 billion, Chelsea has been bought by a consortium led by American billionaire Todd Boehly with a majority of the capital coming from investment firm Clearlake Capital. Property developer Jonathan Goldstein is seen as the second in command.

Other members of the consortium include America’s Mark Walters, Switzerland’s Hansjoerg Wyss, and former PR officer and long-time Blues fan Barbara Charone. The size of the wealth behind this deal is massive.

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Boehly, co-owner of Major League Baseball team LA Dodgers, and stakeholder of NBA team LA Lakers, reportedly tried to buy the club back in 2019 but saw his offer rejected by Abramovich. He is seen as the de-facto leader of the consortium. And considering the success he has ensured at the Dodgers, who ended a 32-year-long wait for a World Series win in 2020, hype has built up around Stamford Bridge.

Squad challenges

Boehly, Tuchel, and co. have their hands full in the transfer market this summer if Chelsea are to contend for the top prize in English football this year. Last year, the club re-signed Inter Milan and Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku for a club-record fee, reportedly north of 100 million euros. The move has not worked out for either party with Lukaku falling out with the manager and failing to be a consistent first-team player towards the end of the season which saw him score 15 goals. The Belgian is set to move back to Milan on loan.

Goals are a huge problem for Chelsea. While the likes of Kai Havertz and Mason Mount are finding their footing in their frontline, previous big-money moves for Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech have both been underwhelming. Promising American Christian Pulisic has also failed to fire in the last two seasons.

At the back, usually Tuchel’s dependable failsafe which was the key to the 2021 Champions League triumph, Chelsea now have bigger problems. Both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leave the club for free, leaving 37-year-old Thiago Silva and 32-year-old club captain Cesar Azpilicueta the only seasoned defenders. Reports are rife that the latter is being courted by Barcelona.

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Splashes about their transfer activity have been doing the rounds. There are murmurs about a high-profile move for Neymar on social media, and they have reportedly shown interest in Raheem Sterling and Ousmane Dembele. At the back, rumours are floating about Dutch centre-back Matthijs De Ligt, and they continue their year-long stalemate with Sevilla for Jules Kounde.

But in reality, Chelsea are far away from making a solid move in the transfer market yet. Their shakeups in the executives’ room show that they are far away from the serious negotiations, at a time when most of their local rivals have made statement transfers.

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The Boehly-Clearlake consortium is presented with an opportunity. If they can make clever moves in the market and work with Tuchel to turn Chelsea’s fortunes at the moment, they become an instant hit with the fans. But if they lose too much ground to Manchester City and Liverpool again, they risk being in the shadow of a high-spending former owner who brought the club much success.

First published on: 27-06-2022 at 10:09:16 pm
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