New Chelsea owner criticized amid transfer uncertainty
Chelsea have faced struggles in the transfer market since Todd Boehly succeeded Roman Abramovich
New Chelsea supremo Todd Boehly has been slammed for his haphazard dealings in the summer transfer window, as former Manchester United star Gary Neville likened his approach to someone playing a computer game.
Boehly took charge at the Premier League giants in May after former owner Roman Abramovich floated the club on the open market in advance of being hit with sanctions by the UK government due to his alleged links to the Kremlin in the wake of Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
American Boehly – who is also part owner of baseball team the Los Angeles Dodgers – fronted the successful consortium which beat several other interested bidders to complete the deal in what was one of the most unconventional purchases in modern sports history.
Boehly has assumed control of several different aspects of the club following the takeover, including the role previously occupied by Abramovich's right-hand woman and main transfer negotiator Marina Granovskaia.
And while Chelsea have completed deals for England forward Raheem Sterling and Senegal skipper Kalidou Koulibaly, he has missed out on several other high-profile targets – prompting player-turned-pundit Neville to savage Boehly in a recent public debate for what he sees as a lack of a considered strategy in the market.
“The American guy [Todd] Boehly, looks like he wants to play Football Manager,” Neville said on The Overlap, referencing the popular computer game franchise.
“He's wandering around a little bit and they're a bit panicky now.
“You're wondering 'oh they're coming in for [Frenkie] de Jong this morning' because he feels like he has to do something, that pressure is on him.
“He wouldn't have had that pressure if he'd have kept the people that have been there before and just let them operate for a year or two, but it'll be an interesting season for Chelsea.
“Obviously, they've lost a few defenders as well. They might even lose more to Barcelona.”
Chelsea missed out on a trio of defensive targets – Jules Kounde, Matthijs de Ligt and Nathan Ake – as they look to replace the outgoing pair of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, and have since been linked to Brighton's Spanish defender Marc Cucurella and Leicester's Wesley Fofana.
Both clubs, though, are playing hardball with the Boehly. Brighton issued a terse statement late on Wednesday to deny that any deal for Cucurella was close, while Leicester are demanding an eye-watering fee for young French defender Fofana.
And Neville suggests that Boehly has overplayed his hand, with every club in Europe knowing that Chelsea are desperate for defensive reinforcements.
“They're [Chelsea] almost like bouncing around because it feels like he [Boehly] has to do something.
“I'm hearing his name too much. It feels like, it's not to be disrespectful, you know he's a prominent guy, he's just bought the club and everything.
“He's fronted a fund that's paid two and a half billion quid, but to get rid of all that football operation that's been unbelievable for that many years and come in and do it yourself, it does feel like [former Manchester United chief] Ed Woodward that to me. We'll see it develop.”
Neville's former club, Manchester United, have struggled under the ownership of the American Glazer family who have been accused of stripping assets from the club and saddling it with debt.
So unpopular, in fact, are the Glazers that Abramovich created a so-called 'Anti-Glazer clause' in the terms of the deal to sell Chelsea so as to avoid the pitfalls that have affected the Red Devils in the last decade.
“When clubs are working well, you don't hear who's signing the players, you just sign them,” Neville added.
“Chelsea have got that sort of, Manchester United under The Glazers, Ed Woodward, 'I'm taking over, I'm the man now', 'I'm going to go out and basically buy the players' and then they're linked with every player that Barcelona want, every player that City want, every player that United want.”
The latest name linked with Chelsea is former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – a player who joined Barcelona just six months ago – while it also remains to be seen for how long Boehly can ignore the eminently available Cristiano Ronaldo.
The new Chelsea ownership has shown that they are unafraid to open their checkbook when required but the problem is that the more desperate they become, the more other clubs can squeeze every last penny out of them.
Welcome to England, Todd.