Chelsea’s transfer strategy the model for long-term success

LONDON - APRIL 14: A Chelsea flag is waved during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on April 14, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
LONDON - APRIL 14: A Chelsea flag is waved during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on April 14, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images) /

After years of pumping money into the club, Roman Abramovich has created a transfer model for success. The Russian’s willingness to spend and an underrated ability to make money back on players make Chelsea a financial and football juggernaut.

Chelsea FC has a heavily criticised transfer policy. Much of the criticism stems from rival fans’ jealousy. The club has money and is a power-player in the transfer market. Worst of all for opposition fans: the Blues’ strategy works.

The laments and recriminations are sadly predictable. Chelsea are ruining young players and the system of developing young English players through their ‘loan army’. Or the classic ‘buying the league’ argument. Somehow this argument is still prominent in the Premier League.

But the bottom line remains: Chelsea have the best transfer system in the Premier League, and possibly the world.

Chelsea’s loan army is good for development and business

Let’s start with this, because I have had my share of gripes with this policy over the years.

The loan system is a win-win-win. It works for the loanees, for the parent club and for the recipient club. It is a perfect deal for all parties.

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Chelsea’s scouting and first team staff get to watch their players play in competitive leagues and get a sense of how they might develop. They observe their playing style, how they react to the coaches and competitors, and how they handle the pressure of a smaller stage.

Often, the loaning club will pay part or all of the loanee’s wages. Other times – like in Juan Cuadrado’s case – they get a monthly or yearly fee for the loan.

The Blues rarely loan players to leagues of lower standard than England’s League One. This speaks volumes about the quality of young players Chelsea buy, and the club’s ability to persuade other teams to take them on loan.

The players quickly learn how competitive it is to force their way through as a young star in Chelsea’s ranks. The player gets to play and, even if he does not like Chelsea, now has an opportunity to showcase his talents to other clubs that could be willing to buy.

The other option would be sitting in the youth/development squad for a few too many years. The young players could lose interest, and teams would be less willing to buy unless they have played in a competitive league.

Critics frown upon the loan system, and sometimes rightly. Legitimate issues arise when 17- or 18-year old kids are sent around the country or abroad for short one month to four month loans. But even then, they get to play. Both clubs get to see them in action, and everyone saves money in the process.

Chelsea smartly dominates the transfer market

Roman Abramovich has pumped over £1 billion into Chelsea since taking over. That’s insane. The reason he continues to do so is because it works so, so well.

Chelsea have won Premier League titles, the Champions League, FA Cups, Carling Carlsburg Carabao Cups… even the Europa League, while still the reigning Champions League title-holders.

Sure, the Blues spend a lot. But what is crucially overlooked is their ability to make their money back on the players.

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Chelsea signed Ramires for £19 million and sold him for £25.5 million. The Blues signed David Luiz for £21 million then sold him for £40 million. They then signed him again but the price for that is weird and complicated.

Thibaut Courtois, acquired for just £5 million, will either be sold for a small fortune in profit or will become a club legend. Juan Mata signed for £23.5 million and was sold for £37.1 million.

Players like Gary Cahill (signed for only £7 million) and even Eden Hazard(£32 million)  now seem like a bargain. These are clever buys for players that have had measurable impact on the club, helping them to win trophies and become mainstays.

Some signings were flops, at least from a footballing perspective. But even then, while they may not have performed at the club, Chelsea has shown time and time again they can make their money back, and then some.

Romelu Lukaku joined for £18 million, sold for £28 million. Kevin De Bruyne signed for £6.7 million, sold for £18 million. Chelsea flipped Andre Schurrle’s £18 million into £22 million and then made a £1 million profit on Mohamed Salah.

The big flop is Fernando Torres (well, not counting Andriy Shevchenko), but at least Torres helped win the Champions League.

Some of the players Chelsea bought and sold only played a handful of games. That the club sold them on at a profit is remarkable.

Michael Emenalo gets a lot of stick, mainly from Chelsea fans. But he has helped to mould a fantastic club. Staying at the top and consistently winning trophies in the modern game – and particularly in the Premier League – is insanely tricky. Abramovich has implemented a style and his club are sticking with it. Why change what has worked so well?

In the next few years the loan army will start coming to fruition. Some of the world-class talent in the development pipeline will become regulars in the first team.

Chelsea are a target for opposition fans, but their transfer policy is the best in the world. Other teams would be wise to try and follow suit.

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What do you think of Chelsea’s transfer policy, is it the best in the world? Who’s been the best signing since 2010/11? Let us know in the comments.

All transfer prices were taken from