Chelsea’s revolution under Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital is starting to gather pace after Petr Cech became the latest figure to leave the club.
Cech’s decision to quit his role as technical and performance adviser came after talks with Boehly, who is leading the pursuit of new signings, and has added to the sense of upheaval around Stamford Bridge. Boehly, the new co-controlling owner, has already agreed to replace Bruce Buck as chairman and has stepped in as interim sporting director following confirmation of Marina Granovskaia’s departure last week.
The American is working to land Thomas Tuchel’s transfer targets and the long-term plan is to revamp Chelsea’s recruitment structure, with the former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain defender Maxwell the latest name to come up in conversations about the sporting director role.
In the short-term this promises to be a challenging first summer for Boehly, who has taken on Granovskaia’s responsibilities around transfers and player contracts. Chelsea, who have also lost their former head of goalkeepers Christophe Lollichon and chief executive Guy Laurence depart, need to strengthen in several areas. They are chasing two new central defenders, with targets including Juventus’s Matthijs de Ligt, Sevilla’s Jules Koundé and Manchester City’s Nathan Aké, while confidence is growing that Tuchel will bolster his attack by signing Raheem Sterling from City.
However the amount of change that has taken place since the Boehly-Clearlake consortium completed its takeover last month has understandably led to a scattergun feel to Chelsea’s transfer plans. Several sources have described the current situation as chaotic, with some first-team players and those hopeful of breaking into the squad uncertain what the future holds for them.
Clarity should return when new signings arrive. Boehly is holding meetings with agents of potential incomings and was offered the chance to sign Cristiano Ronaldo by the Manchester United forward’s representative, Jorge Mendes, last week. Ronaldo, though, is not thought to be a priority for Tuchel. Chelsea, whose attacking targets include Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé, Leeds United’s Raphinha and Everton’s Richarlison, aim to learn lessons from Romelu Lukaku’s struggles last season.
There was a noticeable shift in Chelsea’s negotiating style when Internazionale opened talks with re-signing Lukaku on loan. Boehly led negotiations instead of Granovskaia and accepted a £7m loan fee for a forward who was signed for £97.5m last summer. Lukaku, who clashed with Tuchel, should complete his move back to Inter this week.
Cech, who worked closely with Granovskaia after she hired him three years ago, had previously made it clear he felt Chelsea should have given Lukaku a second season to prove himself. But the former Chelsea goalkeeper found himself questioning his place under the new regime and he has decided to seek a new challenge.
There is now a chance for Chelsea to introduce a more data-led recruitment approach. They would like to convince Michael Edwards, who is leaving Liverpool, to become their new sporting director. They have also considered Paul Mitchell, who is at Monaco, and Maxwell, who Tuchel knows from his time at PSG.
It is clear that Chelsea, who failed to challenge City and Liverpool for the title last season, must improve their transfer business. It is understood they are unlikely to replace Lukaku with a No 9. Chelsea are planning a bid for Sterling, who could be available for £50m, and are monitoring developments around Dembélé, with the France winger likely to leave Barcelona on a free transfer. Dembélé’s high wage demands could make a deal prohibitive, though.
Chelsea, who could yet enter the race for Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, need reinforcements at the other end of the pitch after losing Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen. Boehly held discussions about Koundé last week, but it is understood the versatile Sevilla defender is no longer the top target. Tuchel has switched focus to De Ligt, who is unlikely to extend his contract at Juve. Reports in Italy have suggested Chelsea are offering cash and Timo Werner in exchange for De Ligt.
Chelsea, who could loan Hakim Ziyech to Milan and allow César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso to join Barca, could also try to strengthen their midfield. However any move for West Ham’s Declan Rice, who is highly rated by Tuchel, would cost more than £100m. A push for Rice could wait until next summer.
Another item on Boehly’s agenda is to start contract talks with Reece James and Mason Mount. Both players are unhappy with their current pay. James has been targeted by City and Real Madrid.
Chelsea are also due to hold talks over the futures of Levi Colwill and Armando Broja. Colwill, a 19-year-old centre-back, impressed on loan at Huddersfield last season and wants regular football. Broja, a 20-year-old striker, is a key target for West Ham.