Image Source: @cfcunofficial (Chelsea Debs) London (CC BY-SA 2.0)
UEFA were promising to come down hard on elite teams breaking rules, but most of us were expecting that to be in relation to budgets and a possible Champions League ban. Instead UEFA changed direction for this latest case, which was banning Premier League side Chelsea from buying players for the next two transfer windows. That would mean that the 2017 champions would not be able to buy any new players until the summer of 2020.
The ban is in relation to international transfers involving players under 18 who are prohibited to play unless their families had already moved to a new country for non-footballing reasons, or, they are close to the border of another nation. There is an exception for clubs within the European Union and European Economic Community that allows the transfer of 16 to 18 year old players provided conditions are met on education and living conditions. However the case against the club is staggering with UEFA coming up with 92 charges against them, which has now been lowered to 29.
Of course Chelsea deny all wrongdoing and will naturally appeal but if the club, as expected, do face a transfer window ban how will they react? And how does it change the dynamic of the club?
Let's start with manager Maurizio Sarri because he has been under intense pressure lately with his job on the line. For some Sarri has had a decent season in his debut with The Blues but it is the clubs recent form, which has been scrutinised, and he could be realistically sacked. At the weekend despite Chelsea putting up a fight and defending well they were beaten on penalties in the final of the Carabao Cup against Manchester City, which will have only added to Sarri's pressure.
However, who will want to take over a club if there is no transfer window? Mauricio Pochettino? Jokes aside, top level coaches might be unwilling to take a high risk job as it is and still have no transfer budget to patch up the former manager's mistakes and make improvements. Could a transfer ban have just saved Sarri's job? It is possible but then again if the club are that determined to sack the Italian then surely he will be gone, if not now then in the summer. England national team assistant Steve Holland has already been linked to the club, which might make sense in the short term, and Chelsea might be too good for Holland to turn down who is odds of 2.75 to be the next manager of The Blues.
While Chelsea will not be able to buy any players they will be able to sell- but therein comes the sticking point, you aren't going to sell your best players. And their star turn is Eden Hazard who has flirted most of the term with the idea of playing with Real Madrid next season. Hazard looks determined to leave and is 1.25 to join the Spanish giants but if a transfer ban does still go ahead after the clubs appeal the club may just do everything in their power to keep the Belgian international. The bookies are not too fazed by this and are sitting on the fence offering odds of 3.75 for the attacking midfielder to stay.
One is reminded of Chelsea's predicament by what happened at Spanish side Atletico Madrid a few seasons ago who were also handed a transfer ban. All eyes were fixed to their outstanding play maker Antoine Griezmann who was immediately linked with a move away. However there was nothing to fear, as loyal as his manager, Diego Simeone, Griezmann confirmed he would stay with the club out of respect and then went onto sign a longer contract once the ban was over, by any stretch of the imagination one couldn't fathom the same outcome happening with Hazard.
A ban should be good news for the younger players though who otherwise may have had their chances reduced to the Carabao Cup and pre season- friendlies. Now they can take their opportunities and grasp it, and should get more of a look in. But what of the countless players the club have loaned out? This could be bad news for other teams such as Everton where Kurt Zouma has fitted right into Marco Silva's playing philosophy. Kenedy has been the light at the end of a perplexing season for Newcastle United and Michy Batshuayi is trying to help Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League survival. In all, the club have 41 players out on loan that goes beyond the four divisions in England and beyond Europe.
UEFA have open up a can of worms here, and it will be fascinating to watch it all unfold for the club over the coming weeks and months, because one decision has just caused a storm of epic proportions in West London which will have far reaching consequences.