ESPN analyst and former professional soccer player Craig Burley slammed Chelsea Football Club’s celebrations after their Club World Cup triumph in Dubai, claiming they were overlooking their shortcomings and worshiping a “plastic” trophy.
“As they’re off celebrating like they’ve won the World Cup, Manchester City are racking up a 16 point lead on Chelsea where it really matters: the Premier League,” said Burley during ESPNFC filming. “I don’t buy £100M strikers [Romelu Lukaku] to win the bloody Club World Cup.”
Burley’s harsh criticism of his former club has been met with pushback from other members of the media who feel that he is overlooking Chelsea’s resounding success over the past 12 months.
Chelsea Football Club Adds Another Trophy
Chelsea FC’s Club World Cup triumph brought them the third trophy of manager Thomas Tuchel’s 13-month tenure, joining Champions League and Super Cup hardware. The club also appeared in the FA Cup Final last season before suffering a 1-0 loss to Leicester City, courtesy of a Youri Tielemans wonder strike.
The Blues find themselves third in the Premier League table, four points above fourth-place Manchester United and 16 points behind league leaders Manchester City, with a game in hand on each. The drastic and ever-growing gap between CFC and MCFC is the main source of Burley’s criticism.
In 70 games as the Blues’ manager, three of Tuchel’s nine losses and eight of his 18 draws at Chelsea have come in this year’s Premier League campaign, currently capped at 24 games. Supporters have often been more disappointed than encouraged by their team’s performances domestically, especially in the middle of the season.
Craig Burley’s Criticisms: In or Out of Bounds?
Chelsea desperately needed someone to turn around their team after they had fallen to ninth place in the Prem during club-legend Frank Lampard’s second season at the helm. Tuchel’s arrival came with a swift change of the system, reintegration of senior players, and a fair but harsh system of opportunity.
The 48-year-old German’s side defeated current leaders and reigning champions in three consecutive attempts in six weeks at the end of the last campaign: once in the Premier League, one time in the FA Cup semi-final, and, most memorably, in the Champions League final.
Another player who got caught in the crosshairs of ESPN’s Burley was Romelu Lukaku, a Belgian international who was acquired for a $128.4 million transfer fee this Fall. The big, burly striker scored three goals in his first three games back in a Chelsea uniform, having come up in their youth system, but has only found the score sheet seven times in 24 appearances since.
Lukaku stirred up controversy of his own when he participated in an interview unbeknownst to the Chelsea hierarchy, claiming that he would “be back soon” at his old team (Inter Milan) and that his heart was in Italy, not London, England, where Chelsea plays.
Burley’s brutal verdict of Lukaku and the rest of the squad’s jubilation over the Club World Cup trophy is a reminder that the Blues should have higher ambitions— taking on the Bayern Munich’s, Paris Saint-Germain’s, and Manchester City’s of the world— instead of settling for Saudi Arabian and Brazilian challengers.
Regardless of the validity of Burley’s claims, the Blues will soon be back in action against more reputable opposition, starting with a Premier League matchup with 13th-place Crystal Palace this Saturday. Three days later, they will play LOSC Lille in the first leg of a Champions League fixture, then Liverpool five days after in the Carabao Cup.
Chelsea’s season has been full of turbulence and they are unlikely to close the massive gap on the league’s leaders, but if they can win another trophy in the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, or Champions League, Burley’s harsh condemnation will be quickly forgotten.