Back in May 2016 Chelsea came to an agreement to terminate its £300m deal sponsorship with Adidas, six years earlier than the planned end date of 2023.
Six months later the Blues would put pen to paper with Nike, agreeing to a record £900m deal over 15 years, which would kick in on July 1st of this year, as soon as their relationship with Adidas has expired.
And the time between October and the end up of the Premier League season were terrific. Chelsea went on to more or less dominate the league and at the end of it we all knew there was an extra £60m courtesy of Nike to be added to Antonio Conte’s war chest to retool for a strenuous 2017/18 campaign featuring Champions League football.
And the season ended, the transfer window opened, and Chelsea sold…and sold… and sold, while their rivals bought and bought and bought some more.
Chelsea in 2017:
Transfers In: £0
Transfers Out: £127.8m
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 30, 2017
Manchester City brought in Bernardo Silva and Ederson, Man U acquired Victor Lindelof, Liverpool stole Dominic Solanke and bought Mohammed Salah, for goodness sake Everton has even been splashing cash.
And as expected this type inactive, nonchalant approach to transfers has not necessarily gone over swimmingly with a manager who once yelled “I will kill you” as his defense was beaten for a breakaway.
Conte yelling "I will kill you, I will kill you " to Italy players after Lukaku's Chance.
— ️ (@AddictedToCFC) June 14, 2016
And from a fairytale debut season naturally came to talks of an immediate extension for the Italian manager, talks which shifted to talks of an exit.
Take everything in this article with a grain of salt, European soccer gossip is only comparable to U.S. celeb gossip in terms of flip flopping and utter lack of reliability.
But, outlets from all over Europe will have you believe that Conte (and rightfully so) is furious with Chelsea, owner Roman Abramovich, and his trusted advisors, Technical Director Michael Emenalo and “master negotiator” Marina Granovskaia.
The latter two have basically exclusive control over the Academy, loan policy and transfers, while all of which have had their successes they’ve also shown significant weaknesses, especially recently and all three are things Conte wants greater control over.
Despite a record setting fourth consecutive FA Youth Cup triumph last year and countless other accolades, Chelsea has failed to have an impactful player come up through their ranks at any point in recent memory.
And as of late it seems their transfer policy involves a lot of focusing more on blocking rivals from making acquisitions than purchasing players who, you know, actually play.
Purchases of Loic Remy, Juan Cuadrado, Papy Djilobodji, Baba, Kenedy, Nathan, Matt Miazga, and Michael Hector prior to Conte’s arrival all look exceptionally suspect and not to mention disastrous loan deals for Falcao and Alexandre Pato tossed in.
Where last summer, with Conte at the helm, the club brought in N’Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso, David Luiz and Michy Batshuayi, all of which who contributed, most of which met or exceeded, like really exceeded expectations (Luiz and Alonso).
Take note that the biggest disappointment, Batshuayi, was not a player Conte cosigned.
And it’s not like Abramovich doesn’t want to support his manager and strengthen the squad, rumors have a transfer kitty in the mid-£200m range at the club’s disposal. Money isn’t the problem. Nike, a controlling board, and semantics are the problem.
The Nike deal doesn’t kick in until July 1st, that means a whole new kit, entirely new training line, new everything. Nike, Nike, Nike everything.
And what else does that mean? It means when you’re getting paid £60m a year by a sponsor you have to hold off on bringing in any new players and showing them holding up a bunch of Adidas shit. Which also means you give your opposition a month long head start and drive your manager, whose livelihood is dependent on the talent he has on the field, insane.
So, in the mean time there’s been an awkward and very public leak of a conversation between Diego Costa and Conte that surely spells the end of the Spaniard’s time in West London. And when it comes to his replacement, it seems former Blue, Romelu Lukaku, is on his way back to Stamford Bridge, likely for an outrageous fee.
And to add the drama, it is said that Conte prefers Torino striker, Andrea Belotti, to the big Belgian. And in the beauty of world soccer, just Google Chelsea + any player ever and there’s a rumor connecting him to the club.
The only relative certainty this summer (aside from the signing of former Man City keeper, Willy Caballero… wooo….) is that a Conte approved the impending signing of the young Monaco defensive midfielder, Tiemoué Bakayoko, who will be announced as a Chelsea player in the coming days, with a Nike shirt in his hands of course.
Often we here about clubs being held hostage by the desires of players and more often agents, but in this case it’s a lucrative deal with Nike leaving the champions of England lagging behind the competition while on the verge of a crucial campaign.
Another title winning defense that ends with Chelsea exiting the Champions League Round of 16 and limping to a mid-table finish in the league will raise questions about the infrastructure and composition of team as a whole.
While the old adage is once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, and three times is a trend, they don’t play baseball across the pond and you aren’t allotted three strikes with the amount of money at stake. Any significant faltering will surely see the end of Antonio Conte as manager, despite rumors of a £9.6m/year offer on the table and likely a mass exodus by its most promising players to Real Madrid, Barcelona and the like.
The transfer window opens for Chelsea on July 1st and it will be time to put over £120m in player sales, Nike money, and the financial backing of a Russian billionaire to good use, and quickly or fans will look back at the Nike deal as a curse to a team with the backbone of a Champions League contender in place.
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