The transfer ban given to Chelsea by FIFA last year was meant to hurt them.
By preventing the club from registering new players, football’s governing body intended to punish them by seriously impeding their chances of winning trophies in the short term.
There’s no doubt that the punishment was effective in its principle function – Frank Lampard would have gone into this season with a far stronger squad at his disposal had the ban not been in place. But the unique situations arising since FIFA handed down that decision a little over a year ago mean that Chelsea may have actually benefited from the enforced spending break they’ve had.
Firstly, in terms of the current playing staff, the effects have been hugely positive. A whole group of young players have been thrown into action this season, proving themselves in the process. Whether they go on to be first team stars, squad members or even find themselves sold on in the future, they have raised their values and the club has had a chance to assess them far more fully than they would have done otherwise.
Not only that, but every youngster in the academy looking towards a chance in the first team now sees a viable path opening u.
These benefits have come at the cost of a stronger squad this year – but given what happened to this season, it doesn’t seem a great loss. Chelsea were unlikely to win the Champions League, even with a full summer of buying under their belts, and as it stands they are in 4th anyway, ready to claim the spot for next year.
The upsides of this lack of investment have been evident and discussed ever since the punishment was announced. But the huge financial changes in the world in the last two months have opened up an entire new dimension through which the ban can be seen as a blessing in disguise.
Without it, the club might well have spent huge money on buying players last summer – they would certainly at least have spent the money from Eden Hazard’s sale. That money would be gone, plus tens of millions more tied up in contracts for those new purchases. All in all, the club could easily have sunk hundreds of millions of Euros into a refurbishment of the team that would be totally futile now. All those star signings would be sitting in isolation now, their monster sign on fees and annual wages pouring into their accounts already, and their resale value slashed by the global market slump.
Instead, the club find themselves in a very lean position, feeding off the produce of the youth academy for a season and as under-invested on contracts and transfer fees as they have even been since Roman Abramovich’s arrival.
Just as the rest of the football panic about whether they can survive the drought of football, Chelsea find themselves with a maturing young team and a wedge of cash ready to spend in s suddenly depressed marketplace.
Whether or not we make the most of it remains to be seen, but there’s no question that the punishment that was meant to hurt us may have ended up helping us.