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Explained: How Chelsea have avoided Financial Fair Play sanctions despite January transfer spending spree

Chelsea have broken through £600m in transfer spending since takeover with completion of Enzo Fernandez signing from Benfica; co-owner and chairman Todd Boehly has been securing players on long-term contracts; Financial Fair Play rules have been navigated - but how?

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Football finance expert Kieran Maguire explains how Chelsea's high spending transfer strategy adheres to the Financial Fair Play rules

Chelsea smashed the British transfer record, spent more than the other four big leagues combined, and had hits and misses in an incredible window.

In total, Chelsea splashed over £323m on eight players in January - that's more than the clubs in the Italian, German, French and Spanish top flights combined.

Benfica's Enzo Fernandez was the most expensive player of the lot, with the £106.8m outlay the most ever paid by a Premier League club for a player.

Here, we take a closer look at their incredible spending.

First, we tackle the issue of Financial Fair Play - and how Chelsea have been able to spend such huge sums and stay within the rules.

The UEFA FFP regulations are designed to limit excessive spending and there are also Premier League rules which put a cap on the losses a club can suffer over a three-year period. Large fines or points deductions can be dished out as punishment to clubs which do not adhere to the rules.

But with the Blues agreeing a £106.8m transfer for Fernandez, new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly will have overseen a spend of £600m since the takeover in May 2022 - and they appear to have stayed within the guidelines.

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Football finance expert Kieran Maguire spoke to Sky Sports News to explain...

How are Chelsea squaring this incredible outlay of money since Boehly took over?

Mykhailo Mudryk reacts after missing a chance against Liverpool
Image: New signing Mykhailo Mudryk made his Chelsea debut against Liverpool in January

"What Chelsea have decided to do is to spread the cost of the players by signing them on very long contracts.

"So, by signing Mykhailo Mudryk on an eight-and-a-half-year contract, the way it is dealt with for accounting and FFP purposes is you take that £88m cost and you divide that over eight-and-a-half-years, and it works out as just over £10m-a-year.

"That appears to be the Chelsea strategy that they have employed over the last couple of windows."

So, that would be the same for players such as Benoit Badiashile, who signed a seven-year deal at Stamford Bridge?

Benoit Badiashile watches on at Stamford Bridge
Image: Benoit Badiashile watches his new team at Stamford Bridge

"Absolutely. It can work both ways for Chelsea.

"If the players really develop and are a huge success it gives the club protection for when other potential clubs come in and try to poach those players because they will still have many years left on their contracts.

"The downside is if the player doesn't perform then you've got the complication of they are likely to be on very high wages and you are committed to those wages for the next six, seven or eight years.

"Therefore, if it works it is fantastic but if not, it is weighing the club down a bit like an anchor slowing things down."

How far can this strategy stretch? Could Chelsea keep doing this, keep giving long contracts and therefore still be okay in terms of FFP?

"The issues will be that you are restricted to a 25-man squad as far as both the Premier League and UEFA are concerned.

"You can't just keep adding to the player roster and remember that each of these players is likely to be on a contract that is worth £7m, £8m or £9m-a-year.

"All of a sudden you've got more players on these big contracts and then your wage bill goes up by £50m or £60m, and with the new UEFA financial and sustainability rules, which are starting to come into effect from next summer, you are only allowed to spend 90 per cent, then 80 per cent and then 70 per cent on your income on wages, agents fees and your net transfer costs."

If Chelsea don't qualify for the Champions League next season, will that affect their spending in transfer windows to come?

"Yes, it would be restrictive if Chelsea are not in the Champions League next season.

"If we take a look at Chelsea when they won the Champions League in 2021, that generated around about €120m (£106m) in prize money.

"You'd normally expect to make £3m to £4m for each home game that is taking place at Stamford Bridge as well, and there will be bonuses from sponsors.

"Now, if you then compare that to the Europa League, for every £1 you make in the Europa League you are making around about £4.50 in the Champions League.

"So, there is a significant knock-on effect if you don't qualify."

Has the spending since Boehly took over surprised you?

"It has surprised me to a certain extent because given that Boehly's background is that of private equity where the main aim traditionally is to hollow out the costs and to try to make a business more attractive to future owners.

"You would be surprised that it is committing itself to such a large commitment in terms of cashflow, in terms of both transfer spend and wages.

"So, I think it has taken a lot of people by surprise compared to the largesse we saw under Roman Abramovich.

"Remember, Chelsea lost £900,000-a-week under Abramovich over his 19-year period of ownership."

Selected incomings under Todd Boehly

  • Marc Cucurella - Brighton, £60m, 6 year contract
  • Raheem Sterling - Man City, £47.5m, 5 year contract
  • Kalidou Koulibaly - Napoli, £33m, 4 year contract
  • Carney Chukwuemeka - Aston Villa, £20m, 6 year contract
  • Wesley Fofana - Leicester, £75m, 7 year contract
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Barcelona, £10.3m, 2 year contract
  • Denis Zakaria - Juventus, loan
  • Benoit Badiashile - Monaco, £35m, 7.5 year contract
  • David Datro Fofana - Molde, undisclosed, 6 year contract
  • Andrey Santos - Vasco da Gama, undisclosed, 5 year contract
  • Joao Felix - Atletico Madrid, £9.7m loan
  • Mykhailo Mudryk - Shakhtar Donetsk, £88.5m, 8.5 year contract
  • Noni Madueke - PSV, £29m, 7.5 year contract
  • Malo Gusto - Lyon, £26.3m, 7.5 year contract
  • Enzo Fernandez - Benfica, £106.8m, 8.5 year contract

How relevant is FFP? Can clubs always find ways to skirt around FFP rules?

"There is an element of whack-a-mole in terms of every time we see a new series of rules come in, the accountants and the lawyers look at them from a forensic point of view and try to identify the stresses and weaknesses contained within those rules.

"Then what we tend to see is that the regulators try to respond to that.

"Certainly, looking at these rules I think there are opportunities for clubs to perhaps be what we might describe as a little bit creative with some of the ways that they acknowledge their costs, and therefore this is likely to lead to future conflict between the administrators of the game and individual clubs, who perhaps have a more fast and loose approach to the moral and ethical issues surrounding financial and sustainability rules."

UEFA's rule change in response

Chelsea's strategy won't be able to be copied by rivals in the future, though, with UEFA moving to close the loophole around stretching transfer fees over long contracts. From the summer, clubs will only be able to spread transfer fees over a five-year period.

However, these rules will not be applied retrospectively, which benefits Chelsea.

Chelsea's squad size dilemma - who can they register for CL and PL?

Joao Felix on debut for Chelsea
Image: Graham Potter must choose between six of his January signings for his Champions League and Premier League squads this season

Chelsea's squad is now up to 33 players. However, the Premier League squad limit is 25, with only 17 non home-grown players allowed. They must commit their 25-player squad lists for the remainder of this season by Thursday February 2.

They can also only name three new players in their Champions League squad, with the deadline for that decision at 11pm on Thursday. This deadline cannot be extended.

The three new players could have played for another club in European competitions this season. Malo Gusto is staying on loan at Lyon and Andrey Santos is waiting for a work permit, so Graham Potter will have to choose three players for his Champions League squad from these six:

  • Enzo Fernandez
  • Mykhailo Mudryk
  • Joao Felix
  • Benoit Badiashile
  • David Datro Fofana
  • Noni Madueke

Chelsea are playing Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16. They are away in Germany for the first leg on February 15 before welcoming the Bundesliga side to Stamford Bridge on March 7.

Carragher: Chelsea's approach feels scattergun

Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher on Chelsea's approach in the transfer market under new owner Todd Boehly:

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Jamie Carragher shares his thoughts on Chelsea's recent transfer activity and what it means for the players at the club and Graham Potter

"It feels a bit scattergun, we thought that in the summer, I do think there is obviously a plan about what they want to do in the future," he told Sky Sports News.

"I would be really interested to know what the manager's private thoughts are as it feels like he has just come into this club and players are just coming in left, right and centre and he has to build and something and create some sort of team.

"He will have great players, but can you create that sort of team ethic and bond that all great teams need in the future? But if you are a Chelsea fan, it is really exciting. Todd Boehly has come in and put his money where his mouth is and he wants to get Chelsea right back to the top."

Boehly's recruitment strategy analysed

Boehly has spent over £600m on players since taking ownership of Chelsea - but what is the masterplan behind the huge transfer spending?

Co-owner and chairman Boehly has overseen the acquisition of 17 players so far since he took charge ahead of the summer 2022 transfer window, with Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto the latest arrivals.

Among those incomings, there have been six teenagers and five more players aged 20-22, with Chelsea signing up some of Europe's top young talent, while also bringing in more experienced players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (age 33), Kalidou Koulibaly (31) and Raheem Sterling (28).

Their approach has been criticised in some quarters. Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher recently said Chelsea are further away from success than they were before the past two transfer windows, with Graham Potter's side currently languishing in mid-table in the Premier League and out of both cup competitions.

So what is the masterplan behind their big transfer outlay?

"They've got a twin-track policy," explains Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol. "They go around the world buying up the best young players and they're going to carry on doing that but they want to buy ready-made players as well.

"Since Roman Abramovich left the strategy has been open to criticism. I'm not criticising it myself but there's plenty of people out there who criticise how they do business because it seems like any player that is offered, they're having a look at.

"Some of the signings have worked out, some haven't. Has Aubameyang worked out? Has Koulibaly? I'm not sure. It's been a little bit hit and miss and a lot of people say it may have been a mistake to dismantle the structure Abramovich had in place, with (former director) Marina Granovskaia, (former technical and performance advisor) Petr Cech...

"A lot of key people have left the club very quickly and it's going to take the new people time to get used to working at Chelsea and working with each other. There seems to be more people with a voice and different points of view. Add in a young, relatively inexperienced manager, and you can see why Chelsea are underperforming at the moment."

The Boehly buys - players signed from the start of the summer 2022 transfer window

SUMMER 2022 (including current ages)

Marc Cucurella - Brighton, £60m - age 24

While Man City baulked at the price, Chelsea were prepared to pay the record-equalling fee for a full-back to bring Cucurella from Brighton on a six-year deal. The Spain international - who worked with Potter on the South Coast - was signed to provide competition at left-back and left wing-back with Ben Chilwell, who has been struggling with injuries, although 18-year-old Lewis Hall has also been used in those positions.

Raheem Sterling - Man City, £47.5m - age 28

The first men's signing of the Todd Boehly era, Sterling was described by Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea's "number one priority" when he joined on a five-year contract with an option for a further 12 months. The four-time Premier League champion has managed to score just four times in 15 Premier League appearances this season, though, and was surprisingly used in a wing-back role by Potter prior to the World Cup break.

Raheem Sterling celebrates his goal

Eddie Beach - Southampton, undisclosed - age 19

Young goalkeeper Beach joined Chelsea in June and has gone into their development squad.

Kalidou Koulibaly - Napoli, £33m - age 31

A long-term target for many Premier League clubs, Koulibaly joined Chelsea on a four-year contract and was seen as a ready-made solution after centre-backs Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen both left the club on free transfers in the summer. He has been a first-choice for much of this season.

Omari Hutchinson - Arsenal, free - 19

Highly-rated attacking midfielder Hutchinson was a Chelsea youth player before spending seven years in Arsenal's academy. He returned to west London in the summer and was handed his senior debut by Potter in January against Manchester City.

Carney Chukwuemeka - Aston Villa, £20m - age 19

Boehly described Chukwuemeka as "one of the most exciting young players in Europe" after snapping up the teenager from Aston Villa and handing him a six-year contract. The midfielder has made five appearances off the bench in the Premier League this season.

Carney Chukwuemeka

Cesare Casadei - Inter Milan, £16.8m - age 20

Casadei is one of Italy's most highly-rated young players and was signed by Chelsea on a six-year contract, with a view to the midfielder initially playing in the U21 squad.

Wesley Fofana - Leicester, £75m - age 22

After a series of bids, Chelsea finally landed "one of Europe's most exciting talents" - as Fofana was described by Boehly - with the Frenchman signing up to a seven-year contract but the start to his Blues career has been badly hit by knee injuries, limiting him to just two Premier League appearances for his new club.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Barcelona, £10.3m - age 33

Aubameyang had left Arsenal on a free transfer in January 2022 but Chelsea brought him back to the Premier League from Barcelona on Deadline Day in hope he would be an instant solution up front. His former connection with Tuchel from their Borussia Dortmund days may have appealed but Aubameyang hasn't been able to recapture his prolific form of the past.

Chelsea's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (centre) celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Picture date: Saturday October 1, 2022.

Denis Zakaria - Juventus, loan - age 26

Chelsea have an option to buy Zakaria at the end of his loan stint. The Swiss international had only joined the Italian side in January 2022 and made 11 Serie A appearances and was brought in after Chelsea saw a £43m bid for Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez rejected in the final week of the summer transfer window. After featuring just twice before the World Cup, Zakaria has had more game time in recent weeks with Chelsea stretched by injuries in midfield.


Benoit Badiashile - Monaco, £35m - age 21

Chelsea continued to hand out the long contracts when the January window opened, with Badiashile joining on a seven-and-a-half-year deal. The France centre-back missed out on the World Cup but is expected to have a big future and watched on from the subs bench in the FA Cup tie at Man City on Sunday.

Benoit Badiashile signs for Chelsea

David Datro Fofana - Molde, undisclosed - age 20

Ivory Coast international Fofana signed a six-year contract with Chelsea, with an option to extend for a further year, after starring in Molde's Norwegian title-winning campaign in 2022. He made his debut during the FA Cup defeat to Manchester City, coming on at half-time.

Andrey Santos - Vasco da Gama, undisclosed - age 18

Box-to-box midfielder Santos made 38 appearances in Brazil's second tier with Vasco da Gama, where he became the club's youngest goal-scorer and helped them return to the top flight. Could be loaned out before he gets his first-team chance at Chelsea.

Joao Felix - Atletico Madrid, loan - age 23

Chelsea's January spending continued with the signing of Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix for a £9.69m loan fee which will keep him with the Blues until the end of the season. Felix - who seemingly has a difficult relationship with Atletico boss Diego Simeone - has five goals and three assists in all competitions this season and Chelsea are hopeful he can boost their lacklustre attacking output.

Joao Felix on debut for Chelsea
Image: Graham Potter must choose between six of his January signings for his Champions League and Premier League squads this season

Mykhailo Mudryk - Shakhtar Donetsk, £88.5m - age 22

Chelsea's latest arrival. The Blues swopped past Arsenal in the race to sign the highly-rated Ukraine international. They agreed a deal worth £88.5m with Shakhtar before the 22-year-old signed an astonishing eight-and-a-half-year deal at Stamford Bridge. Described as a "hugely exciting talent" by Boehly and the club's co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali, he has scored nine goals and provided 13 assists in 23 Ukrainian Premier League appearances since his breakthrough at the start of last season.

Noni Madueke - PSV, £29m - age 20

England youth international Madueke signed a seven-and-a-half year deal to return to these shores with Chelsea after playing in the Netherlands with PSV. The former Crystal Palace and Tottenham youngster scored 21 goals in 77 appearances for the Dutch side and will be one to watch in the future.

Malo Gusto - Lyon, £26.3m - age 19

France U21 international Gusto had attracted interest from Manchester United and Tottenham but Chelsea moved to seal a deal in the January window for the Lyon player, with the right-back signing a seven-and-a-half year contract with the Blues. He has been loaned back to the Ligue 1 side for the remainder of the season.

Enzo Fernandez - Benfica, £106.8m - age 22

Enzo Fernandez
Image: Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez has joined Chelsea from Benfica in a British-record £106.8m deal

Chelsea signed Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica in a British-record £106.8m deal.

The deal for the Argentine surpasses the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish from Aston Villa 18 months ago.

The 22-year-old, who only joined Benfica last summer for around £10m, signed an eight-and-a-half-year deal at Stamford Bridge to keep him at the club until the summer of 2031.

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