Summer of Blues

Another season draws to close and the world turns their attention to the World Cup; Chelsea Football Club enters a summer of unnerving uncertainty. The club are no strangers to controversy but this season is a huge summer for the English club who could be in danger of falling behind the Manchester Clubs, Liverpool and London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs. Their problems lie deeper than just the manager and players.

Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea Football Club in June 2003 and transformed the club into an international brand that has become synonymous with winning major trophies and attracting world class talent. Fifteen trophies have been won by the club since the Russian Oligarch’s takeover and represents the most successful English club in the past two decades. Winning titles may have come easy but a manager’s stay been far from it. Abramovich and the board have been jury, judge and executioner with their swift dismissals. Sign of extended poor form and disagreements have been a catalyst for change. With all that being said, it hasn’t stopped Chelsea Football Club from creating a dynasty and a winning legacy but could this be end of road?

Let’s start at the top. The Russian billionaire pulled the plug on a £1bn redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, a move born of the recent political tension between Russia and Britain which resulted in an issue in granting Roman Abramovich a work visa to re-enter the UK. Having become an Israeli citizen last week, Abramovich can now visit Britain for up to six months a year, but will have to apply for a work permit if he wishes to do business in the country. The British government has scrutinized Russian business owners and diplomats carefully since the Salisbury poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.

Does this suggest the Russian has fallen out of love with London? In my opinion, no, even with his challenges, Chelsea insist Abramovich is fully committed to the club in which he has invested over £1.17bn and opting to hold stadium expansion plans at the moment should not dilute other plans for the football side. Although his resolve will be tested in the weeks to come with if his visa situation is not sorted. Abramovich has made his base of operations in Israel. Many of the Premier League’s elite clubs are run overseas but if the plans are perpetually on hold, but if the problems persist will there a point for Roman Abramovich where he thinks it is no longer a viable investment? The idea of selling Chelsea Football Club could become a reality that many dread.

Sarri, Conte & Hazard

If the thought of Roman Abramovich not investing further into his beloved prized asset causes havoc then the managerial situation surrounding the club is even more confusing. Chelsea have reportedly courted Maurizio Sarri to be hired as their next manager and are reluctant to pay for his release clause from his Napoli contract. On top of all this Antonio Conte is still employed at the club. This uncertainty has left the clubs star players baffled and have publicly asked for clarity over the situation. Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard are two who are yet to pen new deals have stated their willingness to stay provided the club show ambition and sign ‘quality’ players to match his ambition of winning the premier league in the 2018/2019 season. Tying down, arguably, Chelsea’s best player will be key in any success the club has next season and a large pull for any incoming transfers. If you can’t keep your best player at the club then how do you expect to pull in equally talented players?

Directors of Football

While we’re on the topic of incoming transfers, there’s another question yet to be answered: who is in-charge of talent recruitment? Since the sudden departure of Michael Emanalo, no replacement has been identified or made. Director Marina Graniskova has taken up the role whilst resuming her duties as Abramovich’s right hand lady. Chelsea can always run their favorite players past the manager when the dust settles but with the impending deadline day arriving early in August, time is ticking for the board to make bold moves in the market.

Hazard will want to see evidence of ‘good players’ coming in very soon, if he is to sign an extension. It’s hardly an ideal situation with both Courtois and Hazard only willing to discuss contract extensions after the World Cup. Chelsea have been shrewd players in the market over the last few years, raising funds from player sales and buying in top talent but this summer they face a daunting task in keeping the crux of their squad intact along with adding further quality to compete on the domestic and European front. The likes of Bakayoko and Rudiger should come into their own after a season in the English top flight.

The Chelsea board are in for a tough summer with many hurdles along the way that could go a long way in dictating the future of the football club. A testing time for a club who need to sort out their hierarchical first to keep up with their rivals or face a downward spiral just as their cross town rivals Arsenal have faced recently.

Clarke, 2018

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