By Vineeth Purushothaman
International Business Times
The 2011-12 season was arguably the most successful season ever for Chelsea. After spending around $2.8 billion, bringing in 66 world-class players and sacking eight managers as Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich finally got a taste of the first Champions League Cup (read the Holy Grail) since he took over the London club in 2003. Many pundits thought of the victory at Allianz Arena as the end of Roman era.
Controversy theories were flowing across the globe about the disinterested Russian oil tycoon pulling the plug as the prize that the oligarch coveted the most was already in the bag. To the surprise of many, Abramovich decided to splash the cash again and revamp the current squad, starting with the purchase of one of the most highly sought after attacking mid fielders in Eden Hazard.
For almost eight years, Peter Cech, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba formed the back bone of the Blues. They took the fans through mesmerizing clashes and almost landed the Champions League trophy in 2008, if it were not for a fatal penalty miss by Terry. However, now all these players are on the wrong end of age and recently Drogba announced his departure.
The 2012 season was a mixed one for Chelsea with the appointment of a new manager in Andre Vias Boas, strained relationships between managers and core players, the sacking of Boas and the reinstatement of Roberto Di Matteo as manager. However, all was forgotten after their amazing turnaround.
Even though Chelsea finished sixth in the Premier League, winning the Champions League pushed them back into the 2013 mix (courtesy of an UEFA rule). The time was ripe for Abramovich to press the reset button. And that's exactly what the club has been doing for the past few months.
Even though Chelsea is still waiting to announce its new manager for next season (Di Matteo's contract expires in June 2012), the club has already made some significant signings with Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Marko Marin and recently, Eden Hazard. There are very strong rumors of Hulk joining the ranks as well which could make the attacking force of Chelsea a serious threat (imagine the trio of Hazard, Juan Mata and Hulk feeding Fernando Torres) in Europe.
Most of these new recruits are under 23 with their primes ahead of them. Rather than rely on a flurry of transfer players, Chelsea took a different approach of sticking more to youth and value. By doing so, Chelsea can develop these youngsters by loaning them out to other EPL clubs or giving them playing time for FA and Carling cup matches. Eventually they can also take over the seniors over a period time.
At the same time, Chelsea is also bringing in players who can add value to the team immediately. The Blues have also released players such as Kalou, Bosingwa while Malouda is almost on his way out. Frank Lampard looks to be destined to be playing more of the double pivot role alongside Mikel while Essien is struggling to force his way back to the starting 11. Utility players in Ramires, Miereles & Romeu will add to the versatility of the European Champions. In short, one will see a new look Chelsea capable of challenging in all competitions for the 12-13 season.
While Chelsea is rebuilding its core group, others are also not far away. Manchester United recently signed Shinji Kagawa from the German champions, Borussia Dortmund,and 18-year old Chilean striker Angelo Henriquez. Both the Manchester clubs are also linked with a host of prominent players like Luka Modric of Tottehnham, Javi Martinez of Atheltico Bilbao and Edison Cavani of Napoli, to name a few.
For soccer fans across the globe, the growing competition among the big four (add Tottenham and Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool as dark horses to make it six-way fight)is sure to produce another season of heart stopping dramas & classic matches. At the end of the day, despite the looming Financial Fair Play rules and accusations of inflated player fees, football and fans stand victorious. All Chelsea fans and detractors can do is sit back and enjoy the spectacle.