One of the country's leading analysts of Uefa's Financial Fair Play regulations admits to being "puzzled" as to how Chelsea have managed to make a profit for the 12 months ending last June.
The club surprised financial experts by declaring they had made £1.4million after suffering average annual losses of almost £80m during Roman Abramovich's previous eight years as owner. That news was rushed out three months earlier than usual, accounts having not yet been filed at Companies House, which makes them unavailable for public scrutiny. Ed Thompson, who works in banking and runs a website devoted to FFP (financialfairplay.co.uk), had predicted a loss of £40m in his own detailed analysis last month. He now admits to underestimating the income from winning the Champions' League and FA Cup, plus increased commercial activity, but does not understand the club's claims of a transfer profit of £28m. "Logic suggests that the figures Chelsea released could only be achieved if wages and amortisation were pretty-much flat," he says. "So how have they done it? I think it is very telling that we only have a press release.
"We need the full picture. I don't want to sound like some crazy chap with a conspiracy theory but I think we may find out more about the figures in due course. Simply put, I am surprised that the club have seemingly kept expenses flat when logic suggests the player acquisitions and win bonuses would have increased outgoings. We need to see the full accounts to understand how they have managed to achieve this." The club point out that transfer fees are frequently payable over the course of a contract and not upfront, whereas income like the reported £17m for Yuri Zhirkov can be counted in full.
Little, if any, of the £32m paid for Eden Hazard, signed in early June, would have been included, and none of the £25m for Oscar.
The figures released do, however, confirm that Abramovich has converted another £166.6m owed to him into shares in the club, having previously done the same thing three years ago to the tune of £709.9m. That enables Chelsea to claim they are effectively "debt-free".
Nor do the accounts include recent lucrative sponsorship deals with Gazprom, Audi and Delta Airlines, which will go into next year's figures. Gazprom, the Russian energy firm to whom Abramovich sold his Sibneft shares in 2005 for £7.4billion, signed a three-year deal with Chelsea in July for an undisclosed sum.
Under the new FFP system, which is being monitored by Uefa for the first time this season, clubs are allowed losses of up to £36m over three seasons.