Chelsea Football Club is back at full operational status after sanctions restricted the team’s ability to access funds, sell tickets and merchandise, and negotiate player contracts.
The sanctions were lifted Monday when the team completed the sale to a consortium led by American Todd Boehly, who also has his hands on the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Sparks.
With the goal of making Chelsea the most recognizable global brand, Boehly is already showing his ambition with early plans to take over the transfer market.
The top priority on Chelsea’s list has long been Jules Koundé, a French international playing for Sevilla in Spain. The 23-year-old reportedly agreed to terms of a contract last season but had his transfer blocked by his parent club; however, with Sevilla facing financial pressure, they need to sell some of their assets, with Koundé being an obvious choice.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has been an admirer of Koundé dating back to his time in charge of Paris Saint-Germain when he noticed Koundé, an elegant center back that specializes in ball progression, playing for FC Girondins de Bordeaux.
The German coach has also longed for the signing of Ousmane Dembélé, a French winger who he coached at Borussia Dortmund. Tuchel went so far as to say that Dembélé was the most gifted player that he had ever worked with, omitting Neymar Jr. and Kylian Mbappe in the process.
Dembélé was rumored to be on his way to PSG after refusing to extend his contract with FC Barcelona but will reportedly not sign for the Parisian club, and Chelsea seems like the most obvious suitor.
Declan Rice, a former Chelsea youth star, has been a popular name in transfer rumors, but his 150-million-plus-dollar price tag could be too much for the Londoners to stomach. 22-year-old Conor Gallagher has been penned as the obvious replacement for Rice and the leader in a transition to a more youthful midfield after winning Player of the Year while on loan at Crystal Palace last season.
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling has also been a growing interest for the Blues, who were often left disappointed by the lack of creativity and poor finishing ability of their attacking players. Sterling is still only 27 years old with plenty of Premier League experience, and he is a proven finisher. City is willing to let him walk due to his intent on earning more consistent playing time, which is not possible in Pep Guardiola’s system of constant player rotation.
A transfer with less steam but real possibility is that of Kalidou Koulibaly, a 30-year-old Senegalese defender playing for Napoli. Koulibaly is an imposing and menacing center-back that does not shy away from challenges and would be prepared for the physicality of the English Premier League.
Robert Lewandowski, Christopher Nkunku, Darwin Nunez, and Jonathan David have all been loosely linked to the Blues, but no advancements have been made.
Lewandowski, 33, is respected by Tuchel but would prefer a move to LaLiga. Nkunku was recently highlighted as a target for Saudi-owned Newcastle United, although he is reportedly unconvinced by their project and is considering extending his contract with RB Leipzig.
Romelu Lukaku has put his name back in the headlines by searching for a way to return to Inter Milan, who sold him to Chelsea for $135m last summer.
The Belgian striker had a torrid time in England despite leading his team in league goals, failing to adapt to Tuchel’s system and disillusioning fans with an interview during which he claimed his heart was at Inter and that he would be back soon.
The Italian side won a league title with Lukaku as their leading scorer but was forced to let him and manager Antonio Conte walk due to financial peril; they are currently negotiating with Lukaku’s recently-employed lawyer over a loan deal that could see the striker forego 40% of his salary, while inter would have to pay an initial fee with an obligation to buy later.
One of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner could also be on their way out as Chelsea attempts to clear the logjam of attackers that polluted the squad and blocked any consistency in the front three. Werner seemed to have the most interest in the open market, although top suitor Borussia Dortmund has since backed out following the signing of 20-year-old Karim Adeyemi.
American winger Christian Pulisic, who seemed to be on the hot seat, made noise a couple of weeks ago when he scrubbed Chelsea-related content from his Instagram account, although it seems unlikely that new American ownership would offload their homegrown talent.
Andreas Christensen’s move to Barcelona is also now in question with the Spanish giants needing to raise a reported $535.6m to register new players in the league. They faced a similar situation during previous transfer windows, and the outlook remains murky.
Christensen is set to become a free agent and has his pick on where he lands, but his top option could now be out of the question. The financial situation also questions whether deals for Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta and left-wing-back Marcos Alonso, the latter of which had gained serious momentum, are going to fall through.