Window Shopping: Chelsea were one of the busiest clubs this month selling big name players Juan Mata (to Manchester United) and Kevin De Bruyne (to Wolfsburg) and bringing in winger Mohamed Salah (from FC Basel), defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic (from Benfica) and center-back Kurt Zouma (St. Etienne – to remain there on loan for the season). The club also made the bittersweet decision to set long-time servant Michael Essien loose (to AC Milan), as well as to loan out players with potential futures at Stamford Bridge like Ryan Bertrand (to Aston Villa) and Josh McEachran (to Wigan).
Players In: Mohamed Salah from FC Basel (£11M); Nemanja Matic from Benfica (£21M); Kurt Zouma from St. Etienne (£12.5M); Bertrand Traore from JC Bobo Dioulasso (undisclosed).
Players Out: Juan Mata to Manchester United (£37M); Kevin De Bruyne to Wolfsburg (£16M); Michael Essien to AC Milan (free); Ryan Bertrand to Aston Villa (loan); Josh McEachran to Wigan (loan); Sam Walker to Colchester United (undisclosed); Bertrand Traore to Vitesse Arnhem (loan); Nathaniel Chalobah to Middlesborough (loan); Patrick Bamford to Derby County (loan); Matej Delac to FC Sarajevo (loan)
Grade: B+. It could be argued that selling Mata, and doing so to a fellow Premier League club, was a mistake. But United are not competitors of Chelsea this season and the influence of Mata will only serve to frustrate Chelsea’s true competitors, Arsenal and Manchester City, who have yet to face the Red Devils for a second time.
In the future Mata may come to roost but the facts now are that Jose Mourinho wasn’t playing him, already has Oscar, operates in a club flush with cash and made a £14M profit (after three trophies in three years) in selling the Spanish attacker. That profit, however, went directly to the purchase of Matic, who Chelsea previously sent to Benfica as a makeweight for the £25M purchase of David Luiz in 2011, meaning they took a heavy loss in bringing him back to Stamford Bridge. The sprawling Matic will be a huge defensive boost to the holding midfield, and, in time, the 19-year-old Zuoma will blossom into a beasting center-back for the Blues.
Finally, it could be argued that Mourinho failed to address his greatest need, that being for a proven striker. While Fernando Torres or Samuel Eto’o (and to a lesser extent, Demba Ba) could catch fire, The Special One claims that the issue of buying a world-class striker will be addressed in the coming summer (likely in a swap deal of Thibaut Courtois for Diego Costa). If, however, Chelsea fail to win the Premier League this season, Mourinho’s failure to do the business in January could be seen as a major oversight. Only time will tell.