Now that we know that this Premier League season is going to be restarted and hopefully finished, teams are already looking ahead to what will be a short summer window before the next campaign kicks off at some point, probably in September.
They will have to move quickly to get deals done in such a limited period. They have had three months now to arrange deals in advance, but the dozen or so fixtures most sides have left could change their plans entirely: some players will pick up serious injuries, some will lose form, others will make their breakthroughs.
Chelsea have had their work in the market cut out for them for a while – there are various needs in the squad, but the focus is a new first choice left back and reinforcement up front.
This article from the Athletic‘s Chelsea correspondent Simon Johnson confirms that, and also confirms the status of Ben Chilwell as top of Frank Lampard’s shortlist to improve that first position.
Johnson cites “suggestions” that Leicester have assigned an £85m asking price for the England international, and that detail is largely what been what’s taken up by other outlets and by fans on social media.
The consensus seems to be that the 23 year old is not worth that much. Even the biggest supporters of bringing Chilwell in are baulking at the suggestion he might fetch that fee.
But nobody shouldn’t be concerned. There’s simply no world in which Chelsea pay that, certainly as a fixed fee, this summer.
A year ago, it would almost have sounded reasonable. Harry Maguire had just moved to Manchester United for £80m, and prices were continuing to inflate year on year. Leicester were looking like a proper Champions League contender too, under no pressure to sell.
But since then, events have conspired to make the idea of Chelsea paying an increase on Maguire’s fee – or anything close to £85m – look extremely unlikely. There is a long list of reasons why.
For one thing, while the club have made some bad transfers in recent years, they at least aren’t too prone to spending it on individual massive deals. Manchester United were taken for a ride and didn’t know when to walk away. Chelsea have bought bad players, but haven’t overpaid at the top end of the scale too often.
There’s also the England factor – when he moved, Maguire was a year removed from becoming a breakthrough Three Lions star at the World Cup. Chilwell would have had a chance to step into that role at this summer’s European Championship, but he will have to wait 12 months for that opportunity now. While he has become a regular for Gareth Southgate’s team this season, he hasn’t exactly been scoring World Cup quarter-final goals like his old teammate to add millions to his price tag.
In fact, even Chilwell’s club form dipped dramatically in the second half of this season, making that rumoured fee look steadily more unreasonable as time went by.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the coronavirus crisis’ financial effects are going to drain the valuation of every player out there. Leicester can’t afford to ask for as much for him and Chelsea can’t afford to pay as much. Leicester won’t have to pay as much for a replacement but Chelsea won’t be getting as much money for the players they’re selling this summer either. In the end the balance stays the same – but the raw numbers are reduced.
So while Chilwell is still top of Lampard’s list, and the Blues may well still end up paying big for the “marquee” players Johnson is describing, don’t expect those numbers to be anything like what they might have been.
A £60m fee with a further £10m or so in bonuses might easily persuade the Foxes that this is the time to cash in – and even that could end up looking like a preposterous idea if the market is as crippled as some fear this summer. Chelsea are in a stronger position than most because of their transfer ban and the sale of Eden Hazard last year, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to squander that if they don’t need to – as we saw with their caution in January.
What’s important is that the manager gets the right players to improve his young team, and that the club don’t end up like Manchester United – so obsessed with getting their own way that they lose sight of the big picture.
“Football in England changed with that Southampton team of 2013-14, there is no other team that had as big an impact in changing the mindset.” – Who modestly said this about their own side? Find out here.