Why Mo Salah's proposed move to Liverpool highlights a major flaw in Chelsea's transfer dealings


There was a knock at Jose Mourinho’s door, and he knew exactly who it was. "With [Kevin] De Bruyne, if you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision," Mourinho said in 2015. "At that time, Chelsea did well. If De Bruyne stayed here, not happy and not motivated, and we'd sold him after a year, we'd have got less -- 50 percent less than what we sold him for. So we sold him. At that moment, it was very good business.”

Mourinho’s ‘decision’ was to sell the Belgian to Wolfsburg in early 2014 for £18million, six months after he had sold Romelu Lukaku to Everton for £28million. Completing a hat-trick of big money deals for Chelsea back-ups was Mo Salah, who departed Stamford Bridge in the final months of Mourinho’s second spell at the club.

In all three instances — to quote Mourinho — it looked like good business.

A few years on and it would cost close to £165million to re-buy all three men, (and those are conservative estimates). De Bruyne, the crying kid, is now with Manchester City and has managed an impressive 23 goals in 89 games.

Mo Salah was brilliant in Serie A last season, and is said to be a primary summer target for Liverpool, three years after the Reds first tried to sign him from Basel. "Negotiations took a long time because Basel rejected more than one offer,” Salah explained in April 2016. “They felt the transfer fee was not that high. I was waiting for Liverpool [to agree terms with Basel] because I really like Liverpool. I was eager to join them. But then I received a phone call from Mourinho and that changed everything.”

Meanwhile, Lukaku has become one of the most potent strikers in England, finishing second to Harry Kane in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

Ultimately, for Salah, De Bruyne, and Lukaku, frustration was the overriding emotion at Stamford Bridge. Their inability to crack the first team forced them to move away, and in doing so facilitated their current levels of success. No one is arguing about if they had to leave, but whether instead a plan could have been hatched to facilitate a return.

The Blues are yet to formally announce any new signings, but Diego Costa’s revelation about his future at Chelsea — or lack thereof — means the club will almost certainly be signing a marquee forward. Many have predicted it to be Lukaku, who will cost an eye-watering £70million.

For a club such as Chelsea, it is not an impossible sum to muster. However, had they sought to insert a buy-back clause in the deal that took Lukaku to Goodison Park they may have been able to make a solid, cost-effective additions to their squad this summer. The same could easily be said of Salah and De Bruyne. While neither has been strongly linked with a return, it is fair to suggest both would play a significant role in the current Chelsea first team, while also being young enough to remain at Stamford Bridge for the long-term.

In all three instances, it would be easy to blame Mourinho for such a lack of planning. When it comes to the promotion and success of young players, the Man Utd boss endures a polarising reputation. In the case of Lukaku it is fair to level blame at Mourinho, with The Telegraph claiming last year that he explicitly told Chelsea not to insert such a clause. However, in the case of De Bruyne or Salah, the responsibility should sit with the club’s long serving technical director Michael Emenalo and Marina Granovskaia.

Emenalo is a trusted confidant of Roman Abramovich, and oversees the club scouting and recruitment, while Granovskaia often finalises contract and transfer negotiations. Of course, the pair have also overseen a number of shrewd deals in their time. For every Lukaku there is a Patrick Bamford, bought for £1.5million and sold to Middlesbrough at four times that figure, or Thibaut Courtois, who’s £8million fee was covered by a three year loan with Atletico Madrid.

Yet, critics will also point to Nemanja Matic. The Serbian was included as part of the deal that saw David Luiz join from Benfica, only for Chelsea to re-sign him at a cost of £21million. When you compare the profits made from the likes of Bamford with the cost of replacing Costa, it begins to look somewhat less impressive.

Of course, no club’s business is perfect, but given that the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid have benefitted from such buy-back clauses, (see Alvaro Morata, Dani Carvajal, and Denis Suarez as good examples) it begins to make sense for Chelsea and perhaps even the rest of England’s big clubs to adopt it when selling.

Overall, the Blues’ transfer strategy has undeniably proved financially beneficial, and is run in an impressive business-like manner. Yet just like any business, practices can be improved, meaning now is the time to change, and try score a competitive advantage on their Premier League rivals.