Todd Boehly’s 100 days: Cristiano Ronaldo talks, £272m spree and brutal Thomas Tuchel axe
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has made a significant impact since taking over from Roman Abramovich, with a £270m transfer outlay followed by the dismissal of manager Thomas Tuchel
Whatever you think of Chelsea’s movements under Todd Boehly, you can hardly accuse the owner of doing things quietly since taking charge of the club.
The LA Dodgers owner won the race to buy the Blues in May, with Roman Abramovich’s 19 years at the helm coming to an end.
After receiving approval from the UK government, he began his tenure at the end of the month, before quickly helping the Blues build in the transfer market.
Rather than installing a new manager from the get-go, Boehly backed Tuchel in the transfer market to the tune of £270m, only to then sack him after a defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on his 100th day as owner. Here, Mirror Football takes a look back through a whirlwind century of games with the American making the decisions.
Boehly met with Tuchel before taking the reins in west London, speaking with the manager before last season’s FA Cup final. And, based on the German’s comments at the time, there were some early positives.
“He paid some money so I don’t think he’s keen to drop the ambition. That would be a big surprise,” Tuchel said. I am sure that he is ambitious to build a competitive Chelsea for the highest level.”
At the time, though, it perhaps wasn’t entirely clear how active a role the new owner would take. That only came to light in June, when Marina Granovskaia left the club and the new owner doubled up as interim sporting director – a role which he still holds after failed efforts to recruit former Liverpool transfer chief Michael Edwards.
Technical and performance advisor Petr Cech also left in June, removing yet another link to the previous ownership after Abramovich’s departure. “With the Club under new ownership, I feel now is the right time for me to step aside,” the former goalkeeper explained. “I am pleased that the Club is now in an excellent position with the new owners, and I am confident of its future success both on and off the pitch.”
A slow start
Boehly was quick to throw his weight around when it came to new signings, but Chelsea were left hamstrung by the decisions of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to leave for Spain. Rudiger confirmed his move to Real Madrid less than a week after the takeover became official, with Christensen waiting until the end of June to speak out about his decision to join Barcelona.
“Last year was my proudest achievement as a player when we lifted the Champions League in Porto,” the Danish international said. “I was a young boy at Chelsea with all the hopes and fears of a player starting his career, I’m grateful to the whole club for making my dream come true.”
As June ticked into July, though, there was no sign of a new central defender. Boehly did get his first marquee signing wrapped up, with Raheem Sterling joining from Manchester City, but it took until the 16th of the month for the first defender – Kalidou Koulibaly – to arrive.
There were also talks over a move for Cristiano Ronaldo after the veteran’s plans to leave Manchester United came to light. It would have been a statement signing from the new owner, regardless of how things panned out on the pitch, but Chelsea instead opted to focus on defensive signings… only to re-enter the market for attacking recruits the following month.
By that point, Chelsea were in Boehly’s homeland for their pre-season tour, with preparations disrupted when a number of players were unable to travel due to their vaccination status. Results weren’t entirely impressive, with a 4-0 defeat against Arsenal reminding the Blues of the size of the task ahead.
Other transfer deals had hit a wall, with Barcelona yet again the bane of the owner’s existence after bringing Christensen to Camp Nou. Raphinha and Jules Kounde had both been high on Chelsea’s list, only to both ending up joining Xavi’s side, while Ousmane Dembele opted to stay in
Chelsea had also looked to make a sensational swoop for Frenkie de Jong after learning the Barcelona midfielder might be available. Boehly had dined with Barca president Joan Laporta in early July with a view to clinching a deal for the Dutchman, who had also interested Manchester United, but was ultimately frustrated yet again when De Jong chose to stay put.
There was always a concern that Boehly, a newcomer to English football, would be exploitable when it came to transfer fees. Early on, there was an apparent refusal to be held to ransom, but eventually the time came to meet clubs’ demands for players he felt were needed.
That meant Marc Cucurella joining for a fee of up to £62m on the eve of the season and Wesley Fofana costing even more in the final week of the window. The latter only arrived after further frustrations, though, with Nathan Ake, Presnel Kimpembe and Mattijs de Ligt all courted without success before Fofana joined from Leicester City
There were some limits, of course. Anthony Gordon was also on Chelsea’s shopping list, with a bid of more than £40m reportedly knocked back, and the Londoners were unwilling to meet Everton’s demands for the England under-21 international.
The pursuit of Gordon appeared to be part of a second arm of the club’s transfer strategy, focusing on youth and long-termism. Carney Chukwuemeka and Gaga Slonina joined in the same week as Cucurella – with the latter loaned back to previous employers Chicago Fire – while a deal for Italian starlet Cesare Casadei was also wrapped up.
Gordon stayed put, though, and was part of the Everton side beaten by Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season. The 1-0 victory wasn’t accompanied by the most convincing performance, though, and the winning start didn’t last.
Deadline day drama
It’s impossible to know whether things would be different if Chelsea had won their next game, at home to Tottenham Hotspur, but the late drama was inescapable. A contentious equaliser for the visitors had repercussions for Tuchel, who was banned from the touchline for a game after his comments about referee Anthony Taylor.
Chelsea’s next game brought their first defeat of the campaign, with an Edouard Mendy error laying the foundations for Leeds to claim a 3-0 victory. With an unconvincing win over Leicester and a defeat at Southampton after that, the owner allowed Tuchel to make further additions on the final day of the window.
That meant a reunion between Tuchel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who joined from Barcelona while Marcos Alonso moved in the other direction. Denis Zakaria also joined with hours of the window to spare, completing a loan move from Juventus.
“Pierre-Emerick is an elite striker with a proven track record in the Premier League and his arrival strengthens our squad, giving us new attacking options,” Boehly said after the arrival of the former Arsenal captain. “We are thrilled to have Pierre-Emerick on board with us in the new era at Chelsea and we’re really looking forward to working with him.”
However, the Gabon international’s reunion with his former Dortmund boss Tuchel lasted just 59 on-pitch minutes. Zakaria didn’t even manage that many.
End of the road for Tuchel
Tuchel’s last Premier League game saw him bow out with a win against West Ham United, but only after an equaliser for the visitors was contentiously disallowed. Away boss David Moyes reportedly entered the referee’s room after the match in response to the decision, but the victory seemed to have eased the pressure on the manager.
Thar was a false dawn, though. Boehly travelled to Zagreb to watch Chelsea’s first Champions League match under his ownership, and the result was enough for him to decide enough was enough.
“I’m part of it,” Tuchel said when reflecting on the loss. “We are clearly not where we need to be. It’s on me, on us, we need to find solutions.
“At the moment everything is missing. It seems like this, it’s hard to argue against it.”
Boehly appeared to agree, speaking to the manager in the hours after the game in Croatia and giving him the boot. Speculation over the next boss has already begun, with Graham Potter said to be high on Chelsea’s list.
One thing’s for certain, though, namely that the next manager will undoubtedly be Todd Boehly’s man. The next 100 days might not be as action-packed, but they may give a better insight into what Chelsea will look like in the post-Abramovich era.