Chelsea's mad transfer turnaround from no money for team bus petrol to £323m January spree

Less than a year ago, Chelsea did not have the money to put petrol into the team bus. Now they have broken the British transfer record at the end of a month when their £323million spending outstripped what was spent in Italy, Spain, Germany and France combined.

But so soon after every penny was being counted, the question that has to be asked is just how far down the road will the new owners’ money get them? The next four months in particular could be quite a road trip.

Chelsea Football Club was just one of a number of assets frozen by the government following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine due to Roman Abramovich’s close association with Vladimir Putin. It was a far cry from when the oligarch had first arrived.

Abramovich pumped in roughly £200m into the club’s transfer kitty and it took him all the way to the Premier League title within two years. Todd Boehly has spent nearly three times that sum in around seven months. Because at first glance it looks like it will struggle even to get them to Europe this season with several pieces still missing under the bonnet.

In that midfield engine room, at least, Chelsea are doing okay. There will no doubt be a few bleary eyes around the club after the final British record transfer deal – the £107m arrival of Enzo Fernandez – was finally put to bed at midnight.

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Argentina’s World Cup winner joins a team with just two wins from their last 11 Premier League matches which has barely averaged a goal a game all season. The side also boasts 2018 World Cup-winning midfielder N’Golo Kante and 2022 World Cup semi-finalist Mateo Kovacic, an embarrassment of riches which meant that spare-part Euro 2020 winner Jorginho could be given away to rivals Arsenal for next to nothing.

So it seems all the more remarkable that none of the £300m spent on eight signings this month was on a permanent striker. Or, for that matter, a less problematic goalkeeper than Kepa Arrizabalaga and a first-class centre-back to underpin what remains a problem area at the back despite the signings in the summer of Wes Fofana and Kalidou Koulibaly.

As was shown two decades ago, such big projects are not the remit of a tinkerman – not even Claudio Ranieri himself. It needs a thorough overhaul. It was not until 12 months into Abramovich’s reign that Jose Mourinho signed Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Ricardo Carvalho that the path was set to continuous success for the next six years of their combined service.

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Graham Potter has a similar long-term mandate – “Vision 2030” they are labelling the overhaul of the club’s academy that they inherited from the previous regime that is designed to filter up all the way into the first team. But the key difference is that the “head coach” – not “manager”, note – has hardly any say in recruitment.

The departures of Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech have left a massive void in that department which so far Christopher Vivell has been brought in to fill – a 35-year-old whose reputation is built largely on his development of Erling Haaland.

The measurement of his success begins now. One thing is for sure – the owners may be handing out seven- and eight-year contracts like confetti to get around those Financial Fair play awards, but Vivell will not be given anywhere near that long to prove the value of his recruitment policy.