Chelsea want Mauricio Pochettino’s possible appointment as head coach to be the dawn of a new era, but the accompanying speculation over the summer transfer of PSG striker Neymar creates a sense that history is repeating itself.
After completing their takeover of Chelsea last May, co-owners Todd Bohle and Clearlake Capital wanted to create a transfer market success, partly to show fans their level of ambition but also to signal they would be as aggressive as previous owner Roman Abramovich. He was after the best talent.
As interim sporting director amid sweeping changes at the executive level, Bohle met with a slew of agents and clubs as he worked out a strategy that would eventually see the club spend over €600m to sign 17 players. Perhaps “strategy” is a very generous word to use. It felt haphazard and chaotic at times, almost from the start when relations between Bohle and the head coach he inherited, Thomas Tuchel, quickly soured.
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Sources have told ESPN that after meeting agent Jorge Mendes last summer, Bohle became interested in the idea of bringing 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo to Chelsea from Manchester United. The idea was presented to Tuchel, who rejected it on the grounds of Ronaldo’s age and that the Portugal international’s inability or reluctance to press conflicted with the striker’s profile he preferred. But that was not the end of it. Bohli raised the possibility of signing Ronaldo on several other occasions, much to Tuchel’s growing frustration.
The issue became the main source of contention between the couple. One aspect of the deteriorating relationship that eventually led to Tuchel’s dismissal in early September. With that in mind, reports that Chelsea are tracking Neymar’s position at PSG – sources have told ESPN’s Julian Laurens that he and the club are open to an exit – should sound the alarm.
Chelsea have not yet confirmed the appointment of a new coach, as interim coach Frank Lampard has led the team after the departure of Graham Potter last month. But sources said Pochettino is the frontrunner and discussions have taken place about various aspects of the role, including the level of influence he will have on transfer policy.
Chelsea quickly dismissed suggestions that Pochettino wanted to bring recruitment guru Paul Mitchell with him to Stamford Bridge after the pair had worked successfully together at Southampton and Tottenham, but it would be understandable if the Argentine wanted another reliable voice in a packed room. .
Bohle has appointed two sporting directors – Paul Winstanley and Lawrence Stewart – as well as head coach Christopher Pfeiffel, while talent management and recruitment are handled by Joe Shields, Kyle Macaulay and Jim Fraser. The club also wants data analytics to play a significant role in their decision-making, further diluting the impact any head coach can have, and that’s before we consider the possibility of Bohle reneging on his intention to step back and allow this new infrastructure to operate. interference free.
ESPN reported on February 15 that Bohle met PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi at a hotel near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where a number of topics were discussed, including the Neymar deal. This association has re-emerged in recent days with speculation mounting that Neymar will leave Paris Saint-Germain this summer with a move to the English Premier League as his preferred option.
Even at the age of 31, Neymar is still one of the best players in the world. He would enhance any team, and at his best, the Brazilian is a match-winning talent with few enemies. But will signing Neymar be in Chelsea’s interest this summer, especially if Pochettino takes over?
Chelsea is a bunch of individuals right now. Adding a bright, volatile cosmopolitan star to the mix would only create more dissonance. Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has described Newcastle United’s prospective signing of Neymar as a “circus” that would “upset” the foundations laid by manager Eddie Howe in bringing them to third place in the Premier League table.
Chelsea has no such foundations. They are rudderless, languishing eleventh on the table, and desperate for cohesion and identity. They need to work together, not give in to the whims of a sexy but high-maintenance player. They may decide Neymar is worth it and it would undoubtedly be great to see a player of his caliber in the Premier League. But the stakes will be high, particularly in the context of Financial Fair Play (FFP) compliance.
Neymar joined PSG from Barcelona for a world record fee of €222m in 2017. With two years remaining on his current deal (and an option for an additional year), he would fetch a transfer fee of over €100m, on top of a hefty sum in his wages, but His conversion value would not maintain his lifetime. Moreover, the absence of European football next season means less money for Chelsea, who posted losses of £121m for 2021-22, and need to prioritize offloading a group of marginal players from their bloated squad if they are to comply with the FFP.
It seems likely that if Chelsea were even remotely serious about trying to sign Neymar, a move could have been discussed during negotiations with Pochettino. He is said to have had a checkered relationship with the Brazilian when he was in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Tell Relevo in November On the difficulties of working with superstars Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe vying for center stage. “For Barcelona to have Messi or for Real Madrid to have Cristiano is a blessing,” he said. “But when you bring in too many players who all need to be where they are and be No. 1, there can be confusion.”
Chelsea’s focus must be on making themselves number 1 again. They are far from it now, and if Pochettino is the man to take over, Bohle needs to listen to his new coach – whatever his own view on signing Neymar – and give him room to work.