Chelsea continue to operate under FFP's scope but find a diamond in Juan Cuadrado
A look at how Chelsea have complied with Financial Fair Play rules and why Cuadrado will be a success at Stamford Bridge
When Jose Mourinho returned to media commitments after his silence before and after the 1-1 draw with Manchester City last week, in protest to Diego Costa’s suspension for stamping in the League Cup semi-final with Liverpool, he would turn his attentions to City and the Financial Fair Play regulations that he believes they are in breach of. In a provocative mood after a recent period in which his relations with the media have notably soured, the Portuguese would ask for a points deduction to hit teams that fail to comply with FFP.
Of course, that comes with Mourinho and Chelsea sitting in a comfortable position in relation to FFP, with the club recently tightening up their transfer policy to adhere to UEFA’s rules.
“It was explained the profile of club Mr Abramovich wants, with total respect to the FFP rules. To keep the team strong, with the possibility to compete against the ones financially more powerful or against the ones who don’t care and don’t respect FFP, we had to work very hard”
“In my area, I tried to do that, analysing the players we can sell and those we can buy”. – Mourinho
How Mourinho changed Chelsea’s transfer strategy
Since he re-took control of the London club in the summer of 2013, Mourinho has recouped well over £150 million through selling Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, David Luiz and most recently Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah. They have helped to balance out luxurious forays into the market to sign Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas for a combined total of £62 million.
But the new approach is markedly different to the past transfer windows that Arsene Wenger was quick to remember in response to Mourinho’s FFP criticisms, the ones where David Luiz and Fernando Torres would be acquired for £72 million with very little coming in return.
Mourinho calls the new policy of sensible business and the close analysis of players to ensure they are buying and selling the correct players for the correct amount of money “a challenge” and it is one that will inevitably provide errors, as well as vindication, for the Portuguese’s judgement along the way.
For instance, for every Lukaku sold, struggling for form in the Premier League after joining Everton permanently for £28 million, there will be a De Bruyne, now leading Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga challenge to Bayern Munich with 11 goals and 13 assists since his £17 million move to Germany.
Schurrle, who was one of Mourinho’s first signings after returning to Stamford Bridge, has now followed De Bruyne to Wolfsburg after failing to hold down a regular place in a side that has its attacking spots inhabited by the likes of Willian, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Diego Costa. With Chelsea’s strong record on injuries enabling Mourinho to remain consistent on his team selection, it has been difficult to get back into favour once injured or omitted from the side, regardless of name or reputation.
Hence, the sales of Mata and Schurrle, a World Cup winner who was signed for £18 million just 18 months earlier, such is Mourinho’s demanding nature and ruthless obedience to FFP.
Why Mourinho let go of Salah to bring in Cuadrado
With Mourinho bringing in Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina for a fee of £27 million, the German was the one to bite the bullet as Chelsea attempted to balance their finances, together with Mohamed Salah who has moved in the opposite direction to Florence in order to facilitate the move.
Since being signed by Mourinho last January, Salah made just 13 Premier League appearances (only 6 of them starts) and the £11 million spent to get the Egyptian winger can be bracketed as erroneous. Boasting two impressive performances against Chelsea in the Champions League earlier that season and a record of exciting form for Basel, it can be argued Chelsea’s indulgence was justified, but it is indicative of the risk taken when attempting to find astute bargains when restricted by new rules on expenditure.
Fiorentina hold the option to extend Salah’s stay in the summer and manager Vincenzo Montella has welcomed what the Egyptian winger will bring to his team, following his debut as a second-half substitute in the 3-2 win over Atalanta at the weekend. “Salah is an unpredictable and talented player” opined Montella, but that wasn’t enough for Mourinho who cherishes high work rate and defensive contribution as well as attacking craft and guile in attack.
Failure to comply with those demands have also previously done for Lukaku and Mata but in Cuadrado, an all-round winger who has often played right-back during his time in Italy, Mourinho has seemingly found an option that possesses pace, trickery and vision as well as defensive diligence. Montella noted as such when bemoaning his loss, comparing him with the incoming Salah and saying: “From a defensive standpoint, Cuadrado guarantees us a lot more than Salah. Cuadrado is a player that has always arrived with a smile and given everything to Fiorentina.”
It means that Mourinho can now call on an alternative to Willian on the right flank without sacrificing the defensive graft the Brazilian offers.
Arriving on the back of an impressive World Cup showing for Colombia and a productive half-season in Italy that has yielded 4 goals and 4 assists, the 26-year-old will bring an extra dimension to Chelsea’s attack with his directness and searing pace. According to Opta, the 413 completed dribbles Cuadrado has completed since making his Serie A debut in 2009 is 28 above any other player and it suggests the type of fearless attacker Chelsea have brought in.
His tireless work-rate sees him clock between 10km and 12km per match and that is a trait that Cuadrado, speaking after he made a 10-minute cameo debut in Saturday’s 1-2 win at Aston Villa, owes to a recurring nightmare which sees a witch constantly chasing him.
With Mourinho trying and failing to address his squad’s lack of genuine attacking strength in depth last January, the exciting Cuadrado looks like he could be the answer, all for a modest £26 million. They will just have to hope that witch continues to chase him.
Written by Adam Gray