Todd Boehly's wild spending could yet ruin Chelsea – or be their making

Todd Boehly: A genius at juggling transfers – or a reckless gambler? - Action Images/John Sibley
Todd Boehly: A genius at juggling transfers – or a reckless gambler? - Action Images/John Sibley

Usually January is the quick-fix month of transfers left over from the summer, a number of bad deals, and a few life-saving ones.

Chelsea have taken a whole new approach: trying to build a long-term project in four weeks. They have bought for the present, but mainly for the future, and attempted to achieve in one window what clubs normally attempt over years.

They have also been highly creative and innovative – by agreeing astonishingly long contracts to defer the costs – but it is a huge gamble based on a belief that these young players will only increase in value. Even though top dollar is still being paid for them now.

Either Chelsea have swiftly built a team for the future and will reap incredible rewards, or they have bet the bank and tied themselves to potentially ruinous deals with players on huge, insulated contracts who may clog up places in their squads. Seven deals and counting.

Negotiations for the biggest of them all, a British-record deal to sign Benfica’s World Cup winning midfielder Enzo Fernández, went close to the wire, with Chelsea agreeing a £105 million deal on Tuesday night. That took their spending in January to close to £300 million. It is a remarkable total, especially given the £250 million-plus committed last summer, following the Todd Boehly-led takeover.

The deals for Fernández and Mykhailo Mudryk are astonishing. Two 22-year-olds whose fees far outstrip the number of games they have played. Fernández has played just 29 times for Benfica – added to 40 games for River Plate and 14 on loan at Defensa y Justicia, both in his native Argentina. That is just 83 professional games – so £1.3 million per match he has played. Mudryk made only 44 appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk and 20 others on loan.

Todd Boehly: A genius at juggling transfers – or a reckless gambler? - Getty Images/Marcelo Endelli
Todd Boehly: A genius at juggling transfers – or a reckless gambler? - Getty Images/Marcelo Endelli

Chelsea are paying £88 million for the Ukrainian winger, which equates to £1.375 million per game. That is a lot of money to risk on potential. Chelsea are betting on youth and are prepared to pay for it. The deals are similar to the signings of 21-year-old Benoît Badiashile for £35 million from Monaco and 20-year-old Noni Madueke from PSV Eindhoven for £29 million.

They have also signed 20-year-old David Datro Fofana for £10 million, 18-year-old Andrey Santos for £11 million and Malo Gusto for £26.3 million. And they have committed a huge £9.7 million loan fee for 23-year-old Joao Felix.

It is not just the fees that are extraordinary, it is the length of those contracts. Mudryk, Badiashile and Madueke have all signed for 7½ years with an option for another 12 months; Gusto and Fofana have 6½-year deals.

It is the last window in which such long deals can be agreed – Fifa is changing the rules to a maximum of five years for a contract. It is not a loophole but an investment and is taking advantage of the system. Chelsea are paying a premium for potential – sweeping up a lot of emerging talent in one window. But they can only do that, and pay such fees, because for accounting purposes the cost can be spread over the length of the contract.

So with Mudryk his £88 million works out at £11.7 million a year. If he had signed a four-year deal, it would have been £22 million a year.

Chelsea have tied a – they hope – huge asset down for even longer. But what if Mudryk fails? Chelsea are committed to a vast contract. And moving him, given the size of that deal, might not be easy.

Chelsea are clearly backing themselves to have identified the right talent and they appear to have had a far more productive and ­positive window than last summer when they ended up making some rash buys – and brought in older players – such as Pierre-­Emerick Aubameyang and Kalidou Koulibaly.

Given that Boehly, his co-owner Behdad Eghbali and their group of investors bought Chelsea for a ­premium price of £2.5 billion, it is hardly ­surprising they want to do things differently and are brave enough, or ­reckless enough, to be so inventive.

Analysis of the spending in the January window shows a clear slant towards 18 to 23-year-olds.

Overspending on youth has gone to a different level. Chelsea have just given it a whole new dimension with even greater risk attached.

But also, if their plan works, reward.