How Chelsea ‘outflanked’ Arsenal to sign Mykhaylo Mudryk from under their noses

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

On Saturday morning, it looked like Mykhaylo Mudryk was joining Arsenal. A little over 24 hours later, he was being unveiled at Stamford Bridge, after Chelsea pulled off an audacious transfer move to outflank the Gunners and sign the Ukraine winger for £88.5million.

Mudryk was confirmed as a Chelsea player in the 22nd minute of their win over Crystal Palace and introduced to the crowd at half-time.

Chelsea hijacked the Arsenal deal after coming through the backdoor and reaching a swift agreement with both the 22-year-old and Shakhtar Donetsk over the weekend.

Co-owner Behdad Eghbali and new head of recruitment Paul Winstanley were key to the Chelsea plan, flying to Turkey on a private jet early on Saturday for talks with Shakhtar president Rinat Akhmetov in Antalya.

As Eghbali and Winstanley worked on a deal worth an initial £62m, manager Graham Potter held positive talks with Mudryk in a phone call sanctioned by Shakhtar.

Mudryk had shown a clear desire to join Arsenal and had been regularly posting on social media to show he was watching their matches. But during those talks with Potter, he was assured he would go straight into the first-team as Chelsea outlined their vision for him.

Potter is a fan of the Ukraine winger and believes his pace and creativity could be just the spark his team need to ignite their struggling season.

By Saturday night, Eghbali and Winstanley were flying back to London, having sealed the deal.

Arsenal had been willing to pay what Chelsea paid up front, but crucially the Blues offered £26.5m in add-ons, which the Gunners were not willing to match.

Shakhtar president Akhmetov has confirmed £20m of the fee will go to Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russia, while Chelsea have agreed to play a friendly in “a Ukrainian Donetsk” after the war.

For Arsenal, missing out on Mudryk was a major setback in their attempts to strengthen their squad for their title challenge. But Mikel Arteta said they have to be “disciplined” in the transfer market, after Chelsea took their spending since last summer beyond £400m.

The add-ons in the Chelsea deal revolve around the Blues winning the Premier League, plus appearances both domestically and in the Champions League. He has signed an eight-and-a-half-year deal on wages worth around £150,000-a-week, higher than Arsenal were willing to offer.

His long contract allows Chelsea to spread the fee over that period in their financial accounts, meaning in accounting terms they are paying £10m per year to help them comply with Financial Fair Play regulations.

Mudryk watched on from the directors’ box on Sunday, as Chelsea beat Palace 1-0 to end their run of three straight defeats and ease some of the pressure on Potter.

Chelsea’s move for Mudryk might have been swift, but their interest is more long-standing. They first scouted him in 2019 and, more recently, new recruitment analyst Kyle Macauley has been tracking him.

 (PA)
(PA)

Shakhtar were first made aware of concrete interest from Chelsea on December 30. The Blues then hosted Shakhtar sporting director Darijo Srna at Stamford Bridge on January 5 for talks during their game against Manchester City.

While Chelsea were speaking to Srna, Arsenal were often dealing with Shakhtar chief executive Sergei Palkin.

It was a perfect scenario for Shakhtar, who had two elite clubs fighting for their star asset, meaning they could stand firm as they held out for £88.5m.

Arsenal had been confident of signing Mudryk and had been told the player wanted to join them. But they had a set fee they were willing to pay and were not willing to be drawn into a bidding war.

They hoped Shakhtar would soften their stance, but interest from Chelsea changed the picture. In the end, Arsenal were simply blown out of the water.