Chelsea’s takeover has been formally approved and the club will soon be able to do business again in the transfer market with decisions set to be made on the futures of certain players under contract
Thomas Tuchel has already shared a warm embrace with Todd Boehly. Now he needs to make sure he doesn’t end up getting the cold shoulder.
Chelsea’s new owner gave Blues boss Tuchel a big old hug on the Stamford Bridge pitch after watching them beat Watford on the last day of the season. But now that the UK Government has finally approved his US consortium’s £4.25bn takeover, the hard work can begin – and the hard conversations start.
Tuchel has ambitious plans to take Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League, where Roman Abramovich always felt they belonged. Now that Abramovich is gone, ending a 19-year spell in charge in which the club have won every trophy going, there is a new man to convince.
How the relationship between him and Tuchel develops will be key to whether Chelsea – a club with a nasty habit of hiring and firing managers – succeed or fail. For now, LA Dodgers part-owner Boehly is confident he can hit a home run this summer and bring at least one statement signing to the club. But Tuchel wants much, much more than that. For weeks he has complained that Chelsea risk falling further behind their rivals, who grow stronger as the Blues get weaker.
Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen will leave on free transfers this summer. Marcos Alonso and even club captain Cesar Azpilicueta could join them through the exit. That in itself will leave a huge void that must be filled quickly – with Sevilla expecting a bid for France defender Jules Kounde within days. He is likely to cost more than £50m, and while Tuchel could have up to £200m to spend this summer, he must sell players to reach that figure.
It is a tricky balancing act because the German wants to improve his squad without losing too many players. But if he wants to make a truly big splash this summer then Chelsea will have to listen to offers for the likes of Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. Question marks remain too over Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku – expensive signings who have not worked out and will not fetch the same huge fees if sold.
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All this brings with it some tension. Boehly and Californian private equity firm Clearlake Capital, the main drivers behind the takeover, have promised to give Tuchel what he wants. So the pressure is on them to deliver in the transfer market without being able to spend the kind of money on one player that Manchester City can. And whatever business Chelsea do in this window, the pressure will then be on Tuchel to deliver, because his side finished 19 points behind the champions this season.
Chelsea have drawn up an extensive list of back-up options should they fail to sign Kounde. They are also interested in Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele, who has yet to sign a new contract with the club, and Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. But it promises to be an unprecedented summer of upheaval – with pressure on both Chelsea and Tuchel to get it right if they want to close the gap on their rivals.