Chelsea should not spend nine figures for a player so far from a sure thing

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge on September 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge on September 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) /

Very few players are worth a £100+ million transfer fee. Chelsea are not pursuing any of them.

Two of Chelsea’s most highly-rated young players watched from the bench as their teammates -led by one supposedly over-the-hill player that they many thought they would have replaced by now – defeated Tottenham Hotspur. Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic could have had no illusions that they would have done anything more or anything better than Willian on Sunday, nor could they think they would be much of an improvement over their peer Mason Mount.

Chelsea should consider Pulisic’s and Hudson-Odoi’s place in the depth chart this season and project into the next before spending the majority of the Eden Hazard windfall on Jadon Sancho. With both Mount and Willian playing like players in their prime years instead of a few on either side of it, and with their abilities working so well in Frank Lampard’s tactics, Sancho would be more likely to join Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi on the bench than replacing any regular from the starting XI for the most important games.

In the latest round of rumours last week, Chelsea were supposedly advancing in talks with Borussia Dortmund to buy Sancho for £120-130 million.

As we have said before, a fee that large for a player so young sets expectations that are almost impossible to meet.

Considering how fans react to a £30-50 million player who does not deliver on their expectations, Sancho – or anyone in that position – would need to perform at the level of Messi, Ronaldo or Mbappe just to avoid being deemed yet another overpriced flop.

Just take a look at Fernando Torres. His stats at Chelsea were not to the level of Didier Drogba’s or Diego Costa’s, but he was a valuable member of the team. whether as the starting striker or in the battery with Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o. He scored a sufficient number of goals and a few important goals. But because of the standards he set at Liverpool and his club record fee, his satisfactory performance looked like a failure.

Torres was 27 when he joined the Blues: young enough to still be at his best, but old enough to have some perspective on his career. He could understand the tactical and personal necessity to work in a system with Ba and Eto’o, and how and when to sublimate himself to the team.

Jadon Sancho is 19. Frank Lampard runs an age-blind meritocracy, which is how Tammy Abraham is keeping out Olivier Giroud while Cesar Azpilicueta keeps out Reece James and Willian keeps out both Christian Pulisic and Pedro.

Sancho’s age won’t figure in to Lampard’s decision, and it may not influence how Sancho himself views his station. But while the numbers on Sancho’s birth certificate won’t matter, those on the wire transfer from Chelsea Football Club to Borussia Dortmund will. Even if Lampard does not care about how much the club paid for a player, and even if the club are OK with Lampard keeping their record signing on the bench behind a player moving into one-year-contract territory, Sancho will not be satisfied with that arrangement. Nor will his agent, nor will other clubs who smell the usual vulnerability among Chelsea’s underused young players (see, also: Hudson-Odoi, Callum, cf. Bayern Munich).

A player’s transfer value is based on what the selling club wants and the buying club is willing to pay. It does not factor in the actual footballing value of the other players at the club he is coming into. Just because the club pays a certain amount for a player does not necessarily mean he is better than his new teammates, nor that he will immediately take a place in the XI.

My colleague Travis wrote here a few months ago that Christian Pulisic should take inspiration and learn from Willian if he hopes to be a regular in Chelsea’s lineup. On current form, Callum Hudson-Odoi should do the same. And if he arrives, Jadon Sancho would do well to do the same. He may have to, in fact, but that is separate from the question of if he is willing, and if that is the best use of Chelsea’s £120 million.

Right now, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic are battling each other to start in games against mid-table to bottom half opponents, because Willian has such a lock on games against the top six and, presumably, Champions League knockout rounds.

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Jadon Sancho would find himself in this four-way battle, which is no place for a nine-digit signing. That is a sign that either the nine digits or the signing itself are not right for the club.