Abramovich is ready to spend – but is that really good news for Ancelotti?

Chelsea's transfer activity over recent seasons has been abysmal, writes Mark Fleming. It's time the Russian backed his manager

The news that Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich has agreed to fund another wave of spending at Stamford Bridge is on the face of it an encouraging move for their manager, Carlo Ancelotti, who is currently overseeing the club's worst run of form for more than a decade.

It is the first real show of faith in the trouble-worn manager since Chelsea's season came off the rails last month with Abramovich's as yet unexplained sacking of Ancelotti's right-hand man, Ray Wilkins.

Yet on closer examination the news may not be quite as good as it seems. Chelsea's record in the transfer market for the past three years has been little short of woeful. The slump of the past month has served to highlight a serious lack of depth within the squad. The loss of Michael Ballack, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho last summer has left them short of quality in key areas, but the malaise goes back far further than that.

In fact, it is three years since Chelsea bought a player worth his transfer fee. In the January window of 2008 the then manager Avram Grant welcomed Nicolas Anelka for £15m from Bolton Wanderers and Branislav Ivanovic for £9m from Lokomotiv Moscow, both of whom have become established as key figures at the club.

However, since those deals Chelsea's transfer activity has been marked by one failure after another, their £18m signing Ramires being the latest in a long line of disappointing new recruits.

Abramovich has been given a glimpse of a possible future recently, of a Chelsea without their two best players, John Terry and Frank Lampard, and it has not been pretty. His response, by all accounts, has been to authorise further spending by the club next month.

However Abramovich will only be wasting his money if he continues with the kind of purchases that have characterised Chelsea's transfer activity for the past three years.

Since the January window of 2008, Chelsea have spent £69.2m and got in eight players – two on free transfers – but not one of them has developed to become a mainstay of the team. The biggest transfer fees have gone on Jose Bosingwa (£16.2m), Yuri Zhirkov (£18m) and Ramires (£18m), but none of that trio has been shown to be good value for money.

Chelsea's transfer policy is ultimately determined by Abramovich, with input from a host of sources including advisers such as the Dutchman Piet de Visser, agents such as Pini Zahavi and scouts/coaches such as Michael Emenalo, as well as Ancelotti. The result has been an unmitigated failure.

Last summer was a prime example. They were given the chance to buy Rafael van der Vaart for £8m, but turned it down to let Tottenham move in to snap up a player who has since lit up the Premier League. Javier Hernandez has scored seven times for Manchester United since joining for £7m in the summer, but the 22-year-old Mexican was reportedly not even on Chelsea's radar.

It is vital that if Chelsea are to enter the transfer market next month, they make the right buys this time. With Alex on the sidelines and Ancelotti having deemed 19-year-old Jeffrey Bruma not yet ready to step in, a centre-half is the main priority. If they are to follow the trend of their previous transfers, then expect to see an expensive foreign player imported from Europe, someone like the Brazilian David Luiz from Benfica or Thiago Silva from Milan, both of whom are likely to command a fee of £20m plus.

However, a more pragmatic option would be someone like Gary Cahill at Bolton Wanderers, Phil Jones of Blackburn Rovers or Phil Jagielka of Everton, players who are used to the particular demands of the Premier League. They will not be cheap, though, with Cahill's buy-out clause now said to have risen to £17.5m.

Signing established Premier League players has in the past produced some of Chelsea's best buys, such as Lampard from West Ham United in 2001, Damien Duff from Blackburn Rovers in 2004, Ashley Cole from Arsenal in 2006, and Anelka from Bolton in 2008. However, it is not a policy they have generally followed in recent years, apart from Yossi Benayoun's switch from Liverpool.

The key question will be how great a say Ancelotti has on the process. Sources close to the club last summer said he wanted to make a move for the German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger but was over-ruled by Abramovich who instead sanctioned the deal to buy Ramires, on the recommendation of the then-chief opposition scout Emenalo.

The Nigerian, who has since been promoted to replace Wilkins as one of Ancelotti's assistants, was also behind the failed bid to sign the brilliant Brazilian teenager Neymar from Santos.

If Abramovich truly backs Ancelotti in the upcoming transfer window, by giving him money to buy players he wants, Chelsea are likely to be far stronger in the second half of the season. However, if the owner sticks to the chaotic transfer policy of recent seasons, the champions are unlikely to be substantially better off come the start of February.

Transfer market Blues

Since June 2008 Chelsea have paid out £69.2m with eight players coming in:

2008

Deco: £8m from Barcelona

Mineiro: free from Hertha Berlin

Jose Bosingwa: £16.2m from Porto

2009

Ross Turnbull: free from Middlesbrough

Daniel Sturridge: £3.5m from Manchester City

Yuri Zhirkov: £18m from CSKA Moscow

2010

Yossi Benayoun: £5.5m from Liverpool

Ramires: £18m from Benfica

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on