Photo Credit: Chelsea FC Twitter
Since being taken over by Roman Abramovich in 2003 the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea, have been one of the biggest European spenders in the transfer market. Many even argue that Abramovich brought to the game a culture of high spending and huge investments in European football clubs, which gave way to big names like Sheikh Mansour, Stan Kroenke, The Glazers, and many more.
Even though the club has made many big money signings like Fernando Torres, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Kai Havertz and most recently Romelu Lukaku, there is a strategy that lets them spend huge amounts without relying on direct investments from the owners like in the cases of Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain. This strategy has been executed by Marina Granovskaia, the director of the club and it has been criticized by few and applauded by many.
So let’s have a look at the strategy that is known by few as the “Loan Army” strategy.
This strategy is the brainchild of former Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo. Very basically, most of the money being pumped into the club did not go directly towards the transfers, but towards building a large scouting network for the club.
The result of this is great players with a lot of potential either being brought into the academy or being bought at low rates and then being sold for a profit after sending them out on loan for a few seasons. This is obviously not always the case, since sometimes a managerial change can send a player from the first team to a loaned club, for instance Michy Batshuayi and Davide Zappacosta, but the primary focus still remains on young talent.
This “loan army” transfer model has proven to be extremely successful for the club, with recent examples being players like Marc Guehi, Ike Ugbo and Tammy Abraham. It can also be assumed that Chelsea bid extremely high for Romelu Lukaku because of the massive revenue they made from selling players like Davide Zappacosta, Kurt Zouma and Olivier Giroud (apart from the above mentioned players). Thus from a financial standpoint, this strategy is extremely beneficial for the club.
Many might argue that this practice is unfair to the players, but the reported culture of dealing with loaned players suggests otherwise. According to reports, Chelsea stay in constant touch with the players out on loan, and players like Tore Andre Flo and Paulo Ferreira handle the loan department for the club.
Recently, Billy Gilmour also revealed that the club will stay in constant touch with him during his loan spell at Norwich and guide him for better performances and improved results.
All of this suggests that Chelsea really cares about the players it takes in and even though they sell these players without giving them any fruitful play time, they make sure that these players grow at their respective clubs, even if it is for financial reasons.
With new rules coming into picture, the “loan army” transfer model might be seeing major changes or a complete overhaul, because according to these new rules by FIFA, a club can only have eight players above the age of 22 out on loan. This number will decrease to 6 for the 2022/23 season. How The Blues take care of this situation and find a way around it is yet to be seen.
While many clubs call Chelsea “hoarders” and argue that they might be ruining the game, the strategy works from a financial and business standpoint, and that is possibly the most important factor for a football club, especially in the post-COVID era. So even if it does some harm, it does more good for all parties involved and Chelsea fans argue that the club cannot be criticized for wanting a good and sustainable business model.