Chelsea signs Ba with financial prudence the focus
LONDON (AP) -Chelsea's strategy in the January transfer window appears to be about reconciling the cost of chasing titles with exercising financial diligence.
About $8 million has already been raised this week by offloading Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool and signing Demba Ba from Newcastle.
At the same time, Chelsea is showing there is little room for sentimentality by failing to yet offer Frank Lampard a new contract despite the fans' favorite still providing goals from midfield at 34.
Captain John Terry even acknowledged on Friday that he would be "devastated'' if Lampard left the European champions.
But losing a player who earns a lot of money will help Chelsea comply with UEFA's new cost-control measures, especially as the club will potentially miss out on $30 million with its Champions League title defense having ended in the group stage.
When their accounts were audited by UEFA last year, the Blues failed a trial run under the Financial Fair Play rules which require teams to cut heavy losses if they want to qualify for the Champions League and Europa League from 2014-15.
"We did a dummy run, we produced our Financial Fair Play figures just to show them where we were,'' Chelsea finance director Chris Alexander said in a recent presentation to industry insiders heard by The Associated Press. "It's not a pretty picture.''
Clubs are required to break even on football-related expenditure, but Chelsea was 54 million pounds (about $88 million) from achieving that in the 2010-11 season.
"We explained to UEFA that we are clearly taking the regulation very seriously,'' Alexander said.
Indeed, for the first time since Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, Chelsea recorded a profit in 2011-12. The profit of 1.4 million pounds (about $2.3 million) came after losing 67.7 million pounds (about $110 million) during the previous year.
"That clearly puts us in a strong position for meeting the (FFP) criteria in the first two years,'' Alexander said, referring to allowable losses of up to ?45 million ($59 million) up to 2013.
Shedding strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka from the wage bill last year will help, as would Lampard's expected departure at the end of the season.
Abramovich is unlikely to repeat his splurge in the 2011 January transfer window in which Fernando Torres was bought from Liverpool for 50 million pounds (then $81 million).
Torres, though, has only recently started delivering in front of goal for Chelsea, having rediscovered his scoring form since fellow Spaniard Rafa Benitez took charge of the team in November.
Relieving the scoring burden on Torres - and adding to the competition for his starting spot - will be the job for Ba, who was signed for about 7 million pounds ($11 million) after a release clause was activated in his Newcastle contract.
"We have to be sure we have enough options in attack,'' Benitez said. "We now have a different option with a player who can maybe play with Fernando but also on his own. It's a different option for me as a manager, which is good.
"He's a good player and has proven he can score goals in the Premier League.''
The Senegal striker is the joint-third top scorer in the league this season with 13 goals compared with Torres' seven.
It is a remarkable turnaround for a player whose hopes of playing in England seemed to be doomed two years ago when Stoke rejected him following a failed medical examination. Despite knee problems, Ba has flourished at West Ham and Newcastle to earn a place at one of Europe's biggest teams.
Chelsea's main task in the January transfer window is to fill the squad with the players to ensure the team doesn't finish outside the top four for a second successive season. Currently fourth, Chelsea finished sixth last season and only qualified for the lucrative Champions League by winning it for the first time.
Lampard was instrumental to that success, but now is expected to leave at the end of the season despite many urging Abramovich to give him a new deal.
"Devastated is an understatement,'' Terry wrote Friday on his Instagram social networking account. "We should retire the number 8 shirt in honour of Lamps.''
The only comment Chelsea made on the situation on Friday was Benitez stressing that Lampard is "fully committed, working hard in training, and giving his best for the team.''
The decision by Chelsea to release Joe Cole in 2010, however, appears to have been astute.
The midfielder struggled after moving to Liverpool, which finally managed to sell him Friday to Cole's former club West Ham only after reportedly paying him 3 million pounds ($5 million) to leave.
The Hammers also signed Morocco striker Marouane Chamakh on loan from London rival Arsenal until the end of the season.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger isn't planning any major signings despite his team sitting sixth in the league.
"The clubs have to look at the finances,'' Wenger said.'' "What makes the clubs are the fans and what makes the fans is the economy. On that front, nobody is really sure what will happen in 2013.''
Newcastle strengthened its defense with the team sitting only two points above the relegation zone by signing France right Mathieu Debuchy from Lille.
Tottenham is looking ahead to next season, with Lewis Holtby agreeing to join from Schalke in July after reaching a deal with the north London club. The free transfer is subject to the Germany midfielder passing a medical examination.
Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris
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