What’s gone wrong for Boehly’s Blues?
By: Ben Pawlak
April 24. 2023
Photo Credit: Associated Press
On Sep. 22, 2022, I published "Chelsea FC enters era of change under American owner Todd Boehly". In that article, I broke down the immediate, significant financial investments made by Chelsea's new owner, Todd Boehly.
Boehly purchased the club from Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich for $5 billion at the end of May 2022, becoming just the 8th American to own a Premier League club in the process. With the poor reputations of other high-profile American owners of massive Premier League clubs - in particular, Stan Kroenke (Arsenal FC) and the Glazer family (Manchester United FC) - I concluded my article by stating that "English stereotypes of ignorant American businessmen using their beloved clubs to line their own pockets remain prevalent... time will tell whether Boehly can shatter these stereotypes by leading Chelsea FC into a glorious new era, or whether he’ll fail to break the mold."
As Chelsea's 2022-23 season reaches its end, it's clear that Boehly has spectacularly failed in his quest to defy those stereotypes.
As touched upon in my previous article, Boehly wasted no time in the 2022 summer transfer market, spending $310 million in transfer fees to bring in seven players while recouping just $65 million on player departures (sales). When the January transfer window opened on the first of the month, Chelsea was in 9th place in the Premier League, having won just 7 of their 15 matches to date.
In response to the disappointing start to the Blues' season, Boehly spent an additional $360 million in January alone on new signings for the Chelsea squad. Most notably, Argentinian midfielder Enzo Fernandez (who won the Best Young Player Award at the 2022 FIFA World Cup) and Ukrainian winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. The Blues sold just one player in that month, recouping a transfer fee worth roughly $12 million as veteran Italian midfielder Jorginho joined Premier League leaders - and in-city (London) rivals - Arsenal.
For the second time in two transfer windows, Todd Boehly had shattered the records for most money spent on transfer fees in a single window. The January spending spree represented a statement of intent from Boehly, mainly that the owner wouldn't be discouraged by the club's poor form in the Premier League, and reaffirmation of his belief that if he threw enough money at a problem, it would disappear.
In an ironic twist of fate, the more money Boehly spent, the worse things got for his club.
One of Boehly's most shocking moves in the summer of 2022 was to sack manager Thomas Tuchel - who had helped the club lift the 2021 Champions League title and registered a 60% winning percentage at Chelsea - after disagreements with the German coach over transfer strategy and team tactics.
To lead his new project, Boehly hand-picked Graham Potter, an English manager who exceeded expectations at fellow Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion. Potter's contract with Chelsea was worth a record-breaking $70 million over four years, and the Blues were also obligated to pay Brighton an $18 million compensation fee for stealing away their manager. Yet, after just 206 days in charge and the club sitting at 11th place in the Premier League table, Graham Potter was fired.
Potter managed 29 Premier League matches for the club and managed just a 34% winning percentage, the worst mark set by a Chelsea manager since 1996. In terms of his contract, for each Premier League win Chelsea earned under Potter, the club paid him $7 million. Meanwhile, Brighton - who currently sit at 7th place in the Premier League table and have improved immensely since Potter's departure from the club - earned $1.8 million for each win their former manager registered at Boehly's club. With Potter out of the picture, Boehly has decided to hire club legend and former club manager Frank Lampard as caretaker coach while he searches for a permanent replacement. Lampard is yet to record a victory as Chelsea manager through five matches in all competitions.
Todd Boehly's eleven month tenure as the owner of Chelsea FC has been characterized by rash, financially irresponsible decisions and woeful on-pitch performances. It's an early indictment, but until things change for the better, Boehly will continue to receive the harsh criticism exclusively reserved for ignorant American owners of big-name Premier League clubs from the worldwide media.