Why buy?

There is a pretty good response given to a US oligarch (they prefer to call them billionaires, over there) in the series “BILLIONS”, when he wanted to buy an NFL franchise. “When you are allowed into the circle of NFL Franchise Owners, it means you are royalty. You are not”. Short shrift and all, it was a wake-up call for the US tycoon who thought that money can buy it all.

It apparently can’t – which is possibly one of the reasons why those who have it all, want to have just that little bit more, no matter the cost.

In England there are those who are eager to buy a PL Club, pretty much for the same reasons. It is the never-ending status booster that propels a nobody with lots of money, into  the orbit of the somebodies who have truly arrived: they are proud owners of something only a few can, and even fewer are allowed to buy.

No need to know anything about football. Money does it, they think. But oddly enough, money alone doesn’t. You can spend 4 billion, and another one billion during a given transfer window, and you find yourself not at mid-table but in 13th and soon lower.

When some faceless Americans bought Chelsea in 2022 [‘bought’ might not be the right term: Roman Abramovich’s property was basically nationalized, then passed on to one of two final bidders: one who was and is a massive Man Utd fan, and another who knows about as much about football as a monkey about ice skating], a dismal collapse began.

‘Bigly’, as the next US President would say (jailed or not): Chelsea FC’s World Ranking on March 22 was 4th. Today, after more than a year of clueless US ownership, the once proud club that was used to winning, is ranked 101st in the world. In the Continental Ranking, the Pride of London finds itself relegated to 81st, just behind ‘Swiss Giants’ Young Boys of Berne, Switzerland, and barely above CSKA Sofia of Bulgaria.

The club’s new season started with a coach who has miserably failed to win trophies with Tottenham in the past. Of their first five matches, Chelsea have managed to lose three, against Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, and West Ham, and draw with Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth.

So, what’s going on at what used to be a top PL club for years – at least, while Roman Abramovich was the owner and Marina Granovskaya the genius who selected, bought, and sold players, supported by legal eagle and club chairman Bruce Buck. One of the new owner’s first moves was to fire everybody who had created a massive success out of a half-way defunct club for some two decades. They knew better, I guess – they thought. But looking at the stats, they know nothing.

Money helps, no doubt. But it isn’t the key to success. Not in football, or else the Brentfords and others would have disappeared swiftly from sight. And certainly not if you have no idea what to do with it, other than showing off to your US buddies, proud of having won a dick contest. But even that the Chelsea owners didn’t win: presently, half of the Premier League clubs are owned by Americans. But speculators like the Glazers (although hated by the fans, but who at least managed to get some talented managers on board), other hedge funds operatives or privately well-endowed Americans who have revived Liverpool’s fortunes and expectations.

Meanwhile, Chelsea got rid of some of its top players and bought useless replacements who fit into the club like a fist on the eye. Gone are the Chelsea stars of last year, but why? And why, so son after acquisition, fire the coach who proved successful without doubt?

If the acquisition of Chelsea FC was to guarantee continuity and style, it failed on both accounts. The continuity was replaced by blue-eyed decisions of the daftest kind, on and off the pitch, while “style” does not appear to be an accessory that comes naturally to many of those from across the waters. You can’t buy style. All you can do is buy some expensive accessories. But not style.

So, what’s happening at Chelsea then? The fire-power of the attackers was replaced by some sad misfits, the midfield was raped of its best players and don’t even talk about the defense: it’s too dismal.

Why buy?

Why buy and cluelessly kick out quality and replace it with mediocrity (at best). Why spend a billion pounds during a transfer season or two and have nothing to show for it (other than a string of failures?). There must be a plan (over and above the “I’ve got a bigger dick than you” chip on some hedge-funded shoulders), but what is that plan?

Chelsea was not a club that needed repairs – some fine-tuning here and there, for sure. But not repairs. Tuchel didn’t need to get fired (he’s presently showing the football world what good coaching means at Bayern München, where he shopped for Kane who promptly exploded into quite amazing action), yet Chelsea fired him? Why? To replace him with Potter and then Lampard who had singularly failed at each club he had managed before (including at Chelsea)? And then to replace Lampard with Pochettino who came second with Tottenham in everything, as he did with PSG in his first season, coming behind Lille, bit managing to win the League title in the 2021/22 season.

If there is a plan at Chelsea, it is a very secret plan. It isn’t a plan that makes much sense though. But maybe the plan is not about football, not about winning on the field, not about titles and victories abroad. Maybe the plan is so secret that not even the new owners know the plan. It certainly looks like that.

James Dostoyevsky was a Washington-based author until the end of 2018, where he reported on sports politics and socio-cultural topics. He returned to Europe in 2019 and continues to follow football politics – presently with an emphasis on the Middle East, Europe and Africa.