Panic selling or streamlining the squad? Assessing Chelsea’s summer sale so far

In their first year in charge of Chelsea, Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital have spent approximately £644m on new players – £266m last summer, £282m in January and another £96m already in this window. With just £54.5m recouped from sales last season and a huge squad in need of cutting back under new head coach Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea have let several big names depart this summer. But have they sold wisely?

Kai Havertz (£60m to Arsenal)

Havertz’s Chelsea career was a curiosity – he scored the Champions League winning goal in the 2021 final, but never reached his full potential playing in a traditional centre-forward role. Moving him on for a loss of just £7m after three years seems like reasonable business – had he not been sold to rivals Arsenal, who can offer Havertz the deeper-lying creative role he craves. Chelsea’s record sale may have been a home run, but the jury is still out on Havertz.

Related: Bayern fly in for more Harry Kane talks but PSG interest complicates pursuit

Mason Mount (£55m to Man Utd)

A much-loved academy product’s departure to a traditional title rival would have raised eyebrows last summer, but Mount suffered more than most in last season’s dreadful campaign. Unable to influence games as he did under Thomas Tuchel, and with one year left on his contract, Mount was swayed by interest from Tuchel’s Bayern and from United, who could both offer him Champions League football. Chelsea eventually agreed an initial £55m fee with United, which could rise to £60m – a welcome windfall for a player who may not have fit in neatly under Pochettino.

Mateo Kovacic (£25m to Man City)

Continuing a theme, Chelsea’s third £20m+ sale this summer has also gone to a traditional top-four rival. As with Havertz, Chelsea appear happy to let Kovacic join a stronger team who can also make better use of his abilities. Since first joining from Real Madrid on loan in 2018, the Croatian has been a bit-part player – he made 221 appearances, but 144 of those saw him fail to play the full 90. Perhaps it is pragmatic not to worry too much about what the 29-year-old can bring to treble-winning City. Still, the departures of Kovacic and Mount also leave Pochettino short in central midfield, complicating the ongoing pursuit of Brighton’s Moisés Caicedo.

Kalidou Koulibaly (£20m to Al-Hilal)

Last summer, Chelsea offered 31-year-old Koulibaly a four-year contract, paying Napoli £33m for the centre-back. It was an alarmingly overpriced deal which relied on Koulibaly being able to reproduce his Serie A form in the Premier League; that emphatically did not happen, and Chelsea cut their losses with the help of a £20m offer from Saudi club Al-Hilal. What looked a no-brainer of a sale has been complicated by Wesley Fofana’s ACL injury, however, with Pochettino now unexpectedly light on central defenders.

Christian Pulisic (£17.1m to Milan)

In four seasons at Stamford Bridge, Pulisic was never quite trusted as the main man in attack as Chelsea kept investing in other attacking players. He might have thought the new US-led ownership would change that; instead, he has found himself shipped out to Milan with the club prepared to take a huge loss – around £40.5m – on the superstar they signed from Dortmund in 2019. With the American’s injury record, big wages and one year left on his contract, Chelsea had little choice but to try and recoup a fee this summer. That said, Pulisic is still only 24 and if he can stay fit, could prove to be one of this window’s biggest bargains.

Édouard Mendy (£16m to Al-Ahli)

The Senegal keeper’s rise from the French lower leagues to Champions League and Afcon glory has been one of modern football’s more heart-warming tales. Having found himself second-choice to Kepa Arrizabalaga last season, Mendy’s game time would have been limited further by a lack of European football. The arrival of young US talent Gabriel Slonina also hastened Mendy’s departure; he leaves for a £6m loss but his impact at the club went far beyond the balance sheet.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£15m to Milan)

Another academy player sold for a chunk of profit this summer, Loftus-Cheek has expressed frustration at how his Chelsea career fizzled out after almost two decades with the club. “I felt I had more to give but I wasn’t getting the opportunity,” the England international said of two seasons where he was kept at the club but not deployed regularly as a box-to-box player. With one year left on his contract, this may be one deal that suits all parties – but the sense of what might have been still lingers.

Related: Manchester United confident of signing Rasmus Højlund before season starts

Ethan Ampadu (£7m to Leeds)

The Chelsea fire sale continues apace, with the versatile Wales international fetching a respectable fee from relegated Leeds. It brings Chelsea’s transfer income this summer to around £220m before add-ons, while just under £100m has gone the other way on young forwards Christopher Nkunku, Nicolás Jackson and Santos’ Ângelo. Boehly’s days of risky spending appear to be far from over.

Still for sale

Chelsea’s summer sale is far from over, with a number of players expected to leave and others’ futures in the balance. The club are holding out for a £40m fee for Romelu Lukaku, whose £97.5m transfer in 2021 must rank among the worst signings of all time. Hakim Ziyech has seen two separate moves fall through, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is also expected to finally bid farewell this summer.

Free transfers

Pochettino was willing to let Pierre-Émerick Aubameyang join Marseille for free, bringing down the curtain on his disastrous spell at Chelsea. Other forgotten men to leave the Bridge this summer included Tiemoué Bakayoko and Abdul Rahman Baba. Two far more celebrated players have also moved on for free – N’Golo Kanté and César Azpilicueta. Letting both stalwarts leave will save more than £400,000-per-week in wages – but will also cost the team much-needed experience.

Verdict

With their position weakened by several seasons of poor recruitment, Chelsea have made some deals that appear decent value – and some that smack of desperation. The sales of Havertz, Mount and Kovacic are all risky, but cannot be judged yet. What is clear is that January recruits like Enzo Fernández and Mykhailo Mudryk cannot hide behind another wave of big spending. It’s up to Pochettino to get the best out of them, and help fans forget about this difficult summer. If he can, then recruiting the former Spurs manager will be Boehly’s best bit of business all summer.

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