A new era is upon Chelsea after a consortium led by American businessman Todd Boehly succeeded Roman Abramovich as club owner.
Boehly is no stranger to dealing with sports teams, or franchises, as he already owns 20% of Major League Baseball (MLB) side the Los Angeles Dodgers, plus a 27% stake in National Basketball Association (NBA) outfit the Los Angeles Lakers, both of whom have enjoyed recent successes in their respective competitions.
He will be tasked with helping finance Chelsea’s recruitment from this summer onwards. Boehly acquired the responsibility after the Londoners were put up for sale in March 2022. Since then Chelsea were operating under a special government licence which expired on May 31, but a “final and definitive agreement” to exchange ownership was reached with the Premier League and UK government, sanctioning a £4.25bn takeover.
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However, it’s worth noting that, despite the consortium being led by Boehly, its Californian private equity firm Clearlake Capital who owns a majority of the shares. Other investors include US billionaire Mark Walter, a co-owner of the Dodgers with Boehly, and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.
For supporters hearing the new owners have “big ambitions” in the transfer market is encouraging as they seek to close the gap on champions Manchester City and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. There’s certain to be new faces at Stamford Bridge next season, with some names departing, but how much will they invest?
And with news that Romelu Lukaku is off to Inter Milan, Chelsea great Frank Leboeuf recently gave his thoughts on what Boehly’s priority should be this summer, believing the club need to focus on defenders more than forwards, particularly after Antonio Rudiger upped sticks for Madrid.
When quizzed on who should replace Lukaku, Leboeuf told EPSN: “No one. I think that’s not the priority for Chelsea.
|Chelsea summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September||Sky Bet|
|Matthijs de Ligt||1/2|
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“If you only care about the headlines you talk about Lewandowski or Sterling and some other class-A players. But you have to look elsewhere in the team.
“You need central defenders. I want to talk about [Jules] Kounde, about right-backs and a new midfielder. This is where they need to look.
“They’ve been looking for a top-scorer for two years, it hasn’t worked. They have talented players that have to settle in and get confidence.
“But finding a striker is not a priority. I want to see Chelsea make clever signings rather than try to make headlines with a striker because that’s not a priority.”
Abramovich famously invested over £120m to kick-start his regime, with West Ham defender Glen Johnson being the first player in — 19 years later, who’ll have that distinction? We look at seven possible names.
|Summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September||Sky Bet|
|Antony to Man Utd||1/4|
|Matthijs de Ligt to Chelsea||8/11|
|Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona||1/5|
|Frenkie de Jong to Man Utd||1/8|
|James Ward-Prowse to West Ham||1/1|
|Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Leicester City||2/1|
|Lucas Paqueta to Newcastle||4/7|
|Jesse Lingard to West Ham||11/8|
|Raphinha to Barcelona||1/2|
|Ousmane Dembele to PSG||4/1|
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1. Jules Kounde
As touched upon, there is certain to be a shakeout with some players exiting for pastures new. Among those who have left are centre-backs Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. So, it makes logical sense for the new owners to focus in this area when it comes to immediate recruitment. A name floating around is Sevilla central defender Jules Kounde — as mentioned by Leboeuf — who could have joined Chelsea last summer, but his proposed move fell through at the eleventh hour.
Kounde, an 11-time French international, claimed the saga took its toll on him after reports suggested he was left furious after Sevilla blocked the switch. “Yes, a little bit, but now I’ve dealt with it,” he said, when Telefoot asked if the failed transfer had affected him. In the season just gone Kounde made no fewer than 32 league appearances, subsequently averaging 1.32 tackles per 90, with his present deal set to expire in June 2024. He won’t come cheap especially after Kounde’s defensive partner Diego Carlos completed a move to Aston Villa.
2. Marc Cucurella
It’s pretty evident that Tuchel is fond of wing-backs. His preferred formation at Stamford Bridge is a 3-4-2-1 with Reece James and Kenedy ending the season on either flank. A fully fit James holds down the RWB slot with his opposite number left up in the air. Ben Chilwell was the regular starter on Chelsea’s left wing before sustaining a serious knee injury. This misfortune opened the door for Marcos Alonso to reintegrate himself back into the Blues starting lineup, though he only has one year left on his current deal and has been linked with a move back to Spain, meaning Tuchel will need an understudy/competition for Chilwell. Among the names linked is Brighton & Hove Albion left-back Marc Cucurella. However, the Spaniard is a much-wanted man with Manchester City being reported suitors. If he’s to leave the Seagulls it could set his new club back around £50m — and you can get odds of 20/1 on him joining Chelsea this summer with Sky Bet.
3. Declan Rice
Here’s a neat stat: 27% of the England squad called up by Gareth Southgate to face Hungary, Germany and Italy in June 2022 spent part or all of their development at Chelsea’s esteemed Cobham facilities. Of the seven players, two are currently part of Tuchel’s first team (James and Mason Mount), with Conor Gallagher a return loanee. The exciting midfielder spent the 2021/22 season at Crystal Palace where he called fellow academy graduate Marc Guehi a teammate. Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham completed permanent Serie A moves last summer, joining Milan and Roma respectively. And it remains to be seen whether they’ll ever return, which can also be said for Declan Rice who, unlike the aforementioned pair, never broke through, instead joining West Ham’s own school of excellence.
His subsequent rise to prominence, now commanding a spot in Southgate’s midfield, has seen the man dubbed “Basmati Busquets” back on Chelsea’s radar. Tuchel is expected to rejig the centre of Chelsea’s team, with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho reported targets for other clubs. Rice, a childhood friend of Mount, comes with an abundance of Premier League and international experience and should easily transition if the new owners are able to strike a deal, which could be tricky given the Hammers are hesitant to conduct any business. That being said Sky Bet are offering odds of 3/1 on the Kingston upon Thames native to join Chelsea this summer.
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4. Gleison Bremer
Going back to restructuring Tuchel’s defence, another option to fill the void left by Rudiger is Gleison Bremer, who has looked the part for Torino during the 2021/22 season. Bremer’s rise led Italian daily Corriere dello Sport to recently state that “he’s ready for a big club” and that his valuation has exceeded €50m. There are no shortage of suitors for his signature including Chelsea, but chances are he could remain in Serie A where he’s netted 11 goals since 2019/20, which is more than any central defender in Italy’s top division during this period. Dethroned champions Inter Milan are reportedly close to signing him, though a potential usurping from west London is still possible.
5. Christopher Nkunku
Defence wins championships, but attack sells tickets, and Chelsea’s forward line can still be improved on. They were the Premier League’s third most prolific side in 2021/22 having netted 76 goals, but it could have more, though the same could be said for every side. However, to have just one player reach double figures (Mount with 11) is unbecoming of a club with their stature. Lukaku could only manage eight while Timo Werner produced a paltry four, so it comes as no surprise to see Chelsea associated with Werner’s former RB Leipzig pal Christopher Nkunku. The explosive French forward bagged 20 goals across 34 appearances in the Bundesliga last term while adding 11 more when playing European football.
Nkunku’s performances haven’t gone unnoticed, with boyhood club Paris Saint-Germain (where he spent his formative years) reportedly monitoring his situation, which means Chelsea will have a fight on their hands if they are to snag him. “Paris, I’ve always said it, it’s my home, my heart club,” he said during the recent international break with France. “I don’t close any doors. Everything is possible in football. It’s flattering to have the biggest clubs in the world interested in me. But it’s also flattering that Leipzig is doing everything to keep me. We are in June, and I am focused on this gathering.”
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6. Ousmane Dembele
Another option to bolster Chelsea’s attack is a familiar face for their manager. During a previous working relationship at Borussia Dortmund, where he made 49 appearances in all competitions, Ousmane Dembele would register 10 goals, but his breathless wing display ultimately earned the Frenchman a big money move to Barcelona — where he’s struggled more than excelled. A combination of attitude problems and fitness issues stunted Dembele’s progress and he could be out the door this summer despite enjoying a productive campaign under Xavi — who’s keen to retain his services, but accepts it’s not in his control.
“Ousmane Dembele’s future is still open and we are not going to go into endless speculation. We are and have always been very respectful of all the clubs and we will continue in the same way,” he said. “When the time is right to make a decision, Ousmane will consider what is the best option for his future.” Dembele will become a free agent if he’s unable to reconstruct his Barca contract, and there’s a possibility Stamford Bridge will be the 25-year-old’s new home, and you can get odds of 4/9 on that happening this summer with Sky Bet.
7. Raheem Sterling
It wouldn’t be a shock to see the new owners go big and bring a marquee name to Stamford Bridge ahead of the new season. Such power play would undoubtedly put their competitors on notice. Back in that trajectory-changing summer of 2003 the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron and Hernan Crespo were recruited, the former coming from championship rivals Manchester United — a potential big-name acquisition this summer could be from one of the Manchester clubs. In this case it’s defending champions Manchester City, where head coach Pep Guardiola seldom fielded Raheem Sterling during the last weeks of the 2021/22 season.
Tuchel is reportedly a fan and with Sterling’s ability to play across the forward line he can be a useful asset. Before joining the Guardiola revolution Sterling was a work in progress at Liverpool. Under the Catalan tactician he has transformed into a lethal attacking force, having netted 131 goals across 339 appearances in all competitions for the club. A switch potentially represents the biggest cross-rival move in some time and, and you can get odds of 4/9 on him joining Chelsea this summer with Sky Bet.
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In that same interview with ESPN, Leboeuf gave his two cents on Chelsea’s transfer policy, warning Tuchel that Sterling will ‘not resolve the problems Chelsea have’.
Leboeuf said: “If you have Sterling at his best, no doubt that it’s a plus. But what kind of player Chelsea would get I don’t know. Definitely he’s a fantastic player and can bring something special.
“That’s not going to resolve the problems Chelsea have, I think in terms of scoring goals and bringing the confidence back to all the players.
“What it’s not going to resolve as well is the crosses from the two wings, by Reece James and [Ben Chilwell]. It’s going to be tricky if they don’t find somebody who can head the ball because neither Sterling nor Werner, Pulisic or even Mount are capable of giving something special from crosses. Maybe Havertz can but it’s not enough in the squad.”