In the rest of Europe, the fear is a little more material. Chelsea, one executive at a major continental club said, has “destroyed the market,” a sentiment supported by Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, Spain’s top division. “The British market is doped,” he said. “It is a competition that loses billions of pounds in the last few years, financed with contributions from patrons, in this case American investors who finance at a loss.”
While all of the executives immediately understood the purpose of Chelsea’s prolonged contracts, the majority were baffled as to whether the club was bravely exploiting an inefficiency in the market or mortgaging its future. After all, lengthening contracts might reduce the immediate financial impact on Chelsea’s accounts — and therefore help the club meet European soccer’s largely theoretical cost control mechanisms — but it does not represent the team’s actual cash flow.
Chelsea still has to pay the transfer fees in the short term. It still has to commit to pay the players several million dollars more than it might have if they were on more standard-length contracts. It still has to rely on them to fulfill their undoubted potential. It still faces the risk of being encumbered with expensive, immovable assets in years to come if they do not.
Selling players, certainly, has been a little more of a challenge for Chelsea. As Eghbali was negotiating for Fernández and Boehly was making his last-ditch bid for Amrabat, one of Chelsea’s current players, Hakim Ziyech, was sitting in the offices of Paris St.-Germain, waiting for confirmation of his departure.
The deal had been in the works for a week or so. At one point, talks had been sufficiently relaxed that Boehly had suggested P.S.G.’s owner — the Qatar Investment Authority — might like to help Chelsea with its stadium project. As the minutes ticked down to the transfer deadline, though, P.S.G. officials became concerned at Chelsea’s lack of communication.
Five minutes before the deadline — at 10:55 p.m. local time — Chelsea finally sent over a document. It was the wrong one. When that was pointed out, a second soon followed. It was not signed. By the time the new error was fixed, it was too late. The deadline had passed. P.S.G. could not register the signing.
Ziyech, distraught, had to return to west London, where a raft of new teammates awaits him, including at least two who play his position. Chelsea has little need for him now. It has to pay his salary, though, for another six months.