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September 24, 2023

Todd Boehly, Steering Chelsea Into Deep Waters

Written By Jacobs Dunga

When the takeover of Chelsea Football Club was completed in May 2022, fans across the globe waited in eager anticipation to learn about the newest entrant to English football.

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On June 20, Todd Boehly took the first objectionable move by installing himself the interim sporting director of the club following Bruce Buck’s resignation. His predecessor, Roman Abrahamovic masterminded a 19-year trophy laden tenure which is the most successful in the club’s history and thus left a gigantic legacy for the American to maintain.

Managing Chelsea can best be described as juggling flaming knives while riding a unicycle, it requires skill, astuteness and a heavy dose of controlled madness. Todd Boehly has presumably been lost in the jungle at Stamford Bridge and the pressure to keep Chelsea floating has sneaked up on the 49 year old like ninjas in the night. He appears to have been overwhelmed by the quest for immediate success which has become obligatory at West London.

Eleven months gone, Boehly’s time at the helm can best be likened to a maze, the club has looked directionless since the forced departure of the Russian billionaire.

His first gaffe was to suggest an all star game that will help generate more revenue for the well run English football which has been lauded as arguably the most sustainable and money generating league in the world. His sentiment was met with widespread condemnation especially from Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. 

“Ultimately I hope the Premier League takes a little bit of a lesson from American sports And really starts to figure out, why don’t we do a tournament with the bottom four sports teams, why isn’t there an All-Star game?” He told a New York conference in 2022.

After his first 100 days in office, the American investor took it upon himself to dismiss coach Thomas Tuchel who had overseen Chelsea’s latest success in the Champions League UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. The German coach was also very popular amongst the players and fans which made his sacking more of a mystery but with a clear conviction that Boehly wanted a Chelsea of his own and not one for the fans or what the club represent.

When you take over any business, you have to make sure you’re aligned with the people who are operating the business, were his words after he relieved the German of his duties. A supposed power tussle over the squad could be deduced from those words.

“Tuchel is obviously extremely talented and someone who had great success at Chelsea. Our vision for the club was finding a manager who really wanted to collaborate with us, a coach who really wanted to collaborate.” He clarified further.

“There are a lot of walls to break down at Chelsea.” He said in a statement that can be interpreted to be one of an autocrat.  “Our goal is to bring a team together, all of that needs to be a well-oiled machine. The reality of our decision was that we weren’t sure that Thomas saw it the same way we saw it. No one is right or wrong, we just didn’t have a shared vision for the future.” He continued in a futile attempt to justify Tuchel’s sacking.

After paying a compensation fee of €11m to Tuchel, the Chelsea chairman dug deep his pocket to activate Graham Potter’s €25m release clause from Brighton and Hove Albion only to show the Englishman the exit after just 31 games thus forced to pay another €15m in compensation.

His excuse? “A disappointing outcome” as said in his address of the 47 year old’s dismissal. That decision further buttresses the claim that Boehly may be clueless and has no idea of what football management entails as he once said himself during an interview with the New York conference that while he and his team know all about “people and human capital” and understand “game plans and strategies”, he admitted they were not expecting to be “football experts.” This words read more meaning in hindsight than when he first spewed.

It is only right to conclude that Boehly played football manager with Potter’s young career by going on a premature, and quite frankly, unnecessary spree in the transfer market, signing players without any logical procedure and seemingly against the manager’s will.

Twenty two players signed, more money spent in the January transfer window than the other four of the top five leagues combined which left Potter with an unnecessary squad of thirty one mostly elite players all jostling for eleven places in the team’s line up. He was literally set up to fail. No way would an up and coming coach have better managed a squad that large, gathered without his specification nor consent. Boehly could probably have signed those players on the account of having them for the all stars game he ignorantly proposed.

The American father of three has stamped his naivety by trying to prove a hazy agenda that success is however easy to accomplish as long as you have the capability to spend. His arrogance and ineptitude has not only taken Chelsea down the log to eleventh, he has also tainted Potter’s career with an indelible blemish. 

If anyone is to be held culpable for Chelsea’s current woes, it is none other than Boehly who has made the Blues look like a high speed car chase that leaves its audience with a dizzying and disoriented action. Boehly has been nothing but an erratic owner at Chelsea. Roman Abrahamovic did not attain this level of accomplishment with the club by swerving back and forth like a drunken butterfly. Chelsea are looking like a pack of cards about to collapse in the wind under their new owner, he has to immediately arrest his tactless orientation before it blows away his vision and the true identity of the club.

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He should understand that it is impossible to juggle water balloons without getting wet and thus, pick positives from Abrahamovic’s tenure, admit faults from the club’s present predicament, adopt the kind of shrewd process as Newcastle’s and eschew the multi-club model of Manchester City he once referred to and focus on keeping the Blues’ ship afloat before it capsizes before his own very eyes.

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