What if the transfer ban stays?

A hypothetical look at the 2019-2020 season – if we can’t sign players…

Today is a very important day for Chelsea Football Club. And I’m not even talking about Slavia Prague.

Whilst the first-team compete in the Czech Republic in an attempt to get closer to reaching the UEFA Europa League Semi-Finals, the club will also be competing ‘off the pitch’ today in Zurich, Switzerland as lawyers representing Chelsea will begin the much-anticipated appeal against the club’s transfer ban for breaking FIFA rules over the signing of foreign U18 players.

To say today is huge for the future of the club is an understatement. In my opinion, the outcome of this appeal hearing is as important as the day Roman Abramovich bought the club. Seriously.

WHAT HAPPENED

Back on 22nd February, FIFA handed the ban to the Premier League side for failing to comply with Article 19 of the transfer regulations in the case of 29 minor players (which potentially includes Bertrand Traore, who now plays for Lyon). As a result, FIFA’s disciplinary committee handed a 1-year transfer ban against the Blues, along with the club being fined £460,000. The Football Association (FA) were also been fined £390,000.

Photo Source: The Times

As it stands right now, Chelsea would not be allowed to register new players through January 2020, but this does not prevent the release of players and will not apply to their women’s and futsal teams.

As expected, Chelsea did file a formal appeal against the transfer ban.

WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT THAT THE CLUB CURRENTLY HAVE?

Chelsea cannot register players in the next two transfer windows (this summer and next January), so the whole of the 2019-20 season. This does not actually stop them buying players, but because the players cannot be registered, they cannot play – as Barcelona did in buying Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal from Atlético Madrid and Sevilla respectively in 2015 while under a transfer embargo. Whilst this is a possibility for the club to consider, it’s more than likely that very few players would agree to this. Despite no registering of players allowed, the club can sell players and can also recall players from loan.

THE POTENTIAL OUTCOMES OF THE APPEAL

The appeal, which will be held at 9am local time (8am UK), will see the FIFA Appeals Committee hear Chelsea’s case as to whether the Blues will or will not be allowed to buy players before the current end date (end of the summer 2020 window) of the transfer ban.

The goal for the club – at the very least – is for the appeal committee to deliver its decision before the opening of the summer transfer window, which would then allow the club launch a new appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if FIFA’s verdict goes against them.

So what could happen to Chelsea? The verdict outcome could be one of the following:

• The transfer ban stays in place until the end of summer 2020 window.
• The transfer ban is frozen until another period of time past the summer 2019 window.
• The transfer ban can be adjusted in length (halved for example).
• The transfer ban is lifted entirely and Chelsea is free to sign players with no restrictions.

If the ban stays in place, it’s more than likely the club will go to CAS.

With everything that is considered in terms of an outcome, do not expect the verdict to be made public today.

As it stands right now, there is no indication how long proceedings/or announcement on the verdict will take. And this is where it could become a problem for the club if the ban is upheld as appealing to CAS still does not guarantee a summer window as we still would have to wait for the appeal process to be completed.

It is safe to say that as we speak, time is Chelsea’s biggest obstacle.

If the ban is lifted or frozen at the very least, this is good for the club as either way it would allow the club to sign players in the summer.

But as the title of this article asks…

WHAT IF THE TRANSFER BAN STAYS?

There is a possibility of a ‘worst case scenario’ occurring in the ban being upheld and Chelsea not having enough time before the summer window shuts to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

And if that happens… you can forget new players coming in, which is a blessing or a curse, depending on your outlook. Chelsea will have to go into the 2019-2020 season with pretty much the same set of players they will end this season with.

Or do they…

THE RETURN OF THE LOAN ARMY

The loan army.

The much-maligned group of players contracted to Chelsea that are deemed either not good enough for first-team football, not ready for first-team football or simply to be used as a ‘financial positive’ for when the time comes for them to be moved on (sold).

As of writing, Chelsea currently has 43 players out on loan at clubs across the globe. Let’s get this point in straight away… not all of these players will ‘make it’ at Stamford Bridge (play for the first-team and/or be considered an integral part of the squad).

With that said, however, if the club cannot buy (register) players until the 2020-21 season, relying on the ‘better’ players from the loan army might become a short-term benefit as they would help improve the strength-in-depth (quality) of the squad for the manager to call upon at his disposal.

Reece James (currently on loan at Wigan Athletic)

And this cwould even turn into a long-term benefit as some of the players currently on loan – whether they’re youngsters coming through the academy or established players who haven’t had a genuine chance in the first-team yet – alongside the group of ‘good’ players we already have, could very well end up the being the new core we can rely upon in this new era of the club. And I’ve not even got to the players currently in the academy who have the potential to make it as well.

Are we upon the dawning of the ‘Homegrown Era’ perhaps?

WHO STAYS, WHO GOES, WHO PROVIDES DEPTH

if we look at the current first-team squad, combined with a certain amount from the loan army (& potentially direct from the academy as well), we definitely have enough players to fill a 25-man squad that can be registered for the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions or Europa League (depending on which European competition we participate in next season).

First and foremost, we have to discuss who is not good enough (or cannot be considered) to part of next season’s hypothetical squad. This could include players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, those on loan but not expected to be signed on a permanent basis and also those who are expected to be sold.

These include players (to name a few) such as:

Danny Drinkwater
Gonzalo Higuaín
Willy Caballero
Mateo Kovačić
Davide Zappacosta
Gary Cahill
David Luiz
Robert Green
Marcin Bułka
Kyle Scott
Tiémoué Bakayoko
Victor Moses
Álvaro Morata

and… Eden Hazard (sigh).

As for those who are not currently part of the squad but could be considered as part of it for next season, these (to name a few) include:

Ola Aina
Jay Dasilva
Fikayo Tomori
Kurt Zouma
Mason Mount
Tammy Abraham
Michy Batshuayi

So, if we combine the players that are expected to stay, along with some from the loan army (along with potentially a couple of academy prospects that could be integrated)… here is a hypothetical look at what our 2019-20 squad could be:

(The key word here being HYPOTHETICAL. So please don’t see this as what the squad will actually be come next season…)

The first thing to consider – there are more than 25 players in the ‘pictured’ squad (35 to be exact), so obviously some will either be put on loan once again, stay in the academy or leave on a permanent basis. What ten players would that be? That’s up for debate.

With this said, the strength of the squad overall is a lot better than what we currently have (besides the glaring omission of a certain Hazard.)

IS THIS ‘SQUAD’ GOOD ENOUGH TO COMPETE?

Now we have a clearer idea of what the squad could potentially look like next season if the ban stays, there are a couple of important questions that need to be answered.

Is it a good enough squad to challenge for the ‘major trophies’?
– Premier League? No.
– UEFA Champions League? No.
– FA/EFL Cup? Yes.
– Europa League? Yes.
Is it the sort of squad that would be given time by the board to develop and get us closer ‘to the top’ once more, before we can sign players again?
Possibly.
Is it the sort of squad that would be given time by the fans?
50/50, depends on what fan you ask.

Despite the fact that it seems inevitable that Hazard will be leaving in the summer, the squad will look (& be) better next season, just with the additions from the loan army alone.

Is the sort of squad that we would want for years to come though? No.

This is why the transfer ban being frozen (or lifted entirely) is still very much needed for the club to be able to sign the ‘elite’ tier of player that would get us back to competing for the major trophies both domestically and in Europe… the Premier League and the Champions League.

The likelihood is that Chelsea will eventually end up with the ban being imposed. As long as we get this summer’s transfer window to do business though, that’s the main thing as I do believe this coming summer will be the most decisive window of the Roman Abramovich era to date.

With sales from ‘deadwood’ in the first-team squad and members of the loan army that are surplus to requirements, a lot of money would be generated for squad investment. Combining that with a more-than-likely budget that had already be set aside for a typical summer transfer window… the money at Chelsea’s disposal would be astronomical.

Just no more ‘Danny Drinkwaters’ please Marina. I beg you.

Today and over the next few weeks, these 14 people on the committee will decide our club’s transfer future over the next few years.

Here’s hoping for luck to be looking on our side. Fingers crossed.

(Editor’s note – If the transfer ban is frozen or lifted entirely, I WILL be making a follow-up article on what players Chelsea could realistically sign (in each position) so we could get a glimpse of how good our squad could possibly be in the future.)

Terry Sazio

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