Record-breaking Torres deal shows Chelsea - and Abramovich - have changed the game again
Published 23:31 31/01/11 By Martin Lipton
Fernando Torres last night became the most expensive player in British football history.
And the astonishing scale of Roman Abramovich’s commitment to Chelsea became even clearer with the Russian personally sanctioning the £50million cash deal that brought Torres from Merseyside to SW6.
Hours before the Spain striker finally signed a five-year £150,00-a-week deal, Chelsea also landed their other prime target of the transfer window, David Luiz.
Benfica agreed a deal worth up to £21.3million for the Brazil defender.
Chelsea’s Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic will go the other way, joining the Portuguese club.
The Luiz capture on a five-year deal worth £10m underpinned the change of stance from everything the club has been saying for the past two years, the penny – or should that be great big bag of cash – dropping that an unbalanced squad was a recipe for underachievement no matter who the manager.
It was signing Torres, though, that really counted in the eyes of celebrating Chelsea fans, the culmination of a personal quest by both owner Abramovich and manager Carlo Ancelotti to land the player both feel can transform the season and demonstrate the club is determined to progress.
Yet as events at Anfield, which saw Andy Carroll’s arrival overtake Torres’ departure as the story of the final hours of the transfer window were playing out, Chelsea chose a busy day to bury the bad news of their latest financial loss.
Despite trying to wrap up the facts in a sweetener, with a press release emphasising the club becoming “cash positive” in the year to the end of June, the numbers were there for all to see. Forget the bluster. Look at the figures that counted: another financial loss, £70.9m, in a year which saw them win the Double for the first time and with no compensation payments to a sacked manager.
The amount Abramovich has ploughed into the club since taking over from Ken Bates in 2003 had risen to about £797m – even before the summer signings of Ramires and Yossi Benayoun and last night’s double deal added another £94m to that overall figure in transfer fees alone.
Add in the wages and the likely losses to pay for Ancelotti’s current squad and Abramovich looks set to bust the £1billion barrier by 2013, the year Chelsea were supposed to be breaking even if not making a profit.
Not that any Blues fans, or any of Ancelotti’s squad who were last night in the North-East ahead of tonight’s game with Sunderland, care about the bottom line. Not for now.
And for Torres, the move was what he felt he needed, irrespective of the stick he is bracing himself for from the travelling fans when he makes his debut for Chelsea against his former club at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Sources close to the player confirmed it was a relief for him to follow his heart and make the change now, rather than trying to convince himself, in vain, that his broken love affair with Liverpool could be continued.
Torres was said to have suffered over the past five days as the scale of his move became clearer, breaking what had been an almost physical bond with the Anfield fans who idolised him and viewed him as one of their own.
But the 26-year-old forward had reconciled himself to the backlash and the grief, telling himself that those Liverpool fans who were complaining of feeling wounded and let down by his act of “desertion” would get over it in a matter of days, while if he had stayed it would have meant another six months of hiding a personal misery.
That hard-luck story will receive short shrift on Merseyside.
But there is no doubting that Abramovich himself has been at the forefront of his club’s pursuit of the striker, with suggestions of promises that this latest spending blitz is the beginning of a return to the acquisitive Chelsea of 2003 to 2006.
While the official statement about the club believing it is now “well positioned to meet UEFA’s financial fair play rules” was inevitable, Abramovich is playing by his own rules again.
It is a statement of determination and intent just when it seemed the Russian tycoon had been cowed by the arrival on the scene of the Manchester City money-men from the Middle East.
Chelsea have changed the game all over again.
And while Liverpool’s expenditure was eye-opening, the long-term implications of Abramovich awakening from his period of slumber will really make an impact.