Have Any of Chelsea’s Big Money Signings Paid Off?

Ever since Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich, got his hands on Chelsea FC back in 2003, the Blues haven’t been shy when it comes to splashing the cash in the transfer market. If anything, Chelsea became even bigger spenders after the consortium led by Todd Boehly purchased the club in 2022. But the question we’re posing here is how many (if indeed any!) of Chelsea’s biggest signings have proved money well spent?

Chelsea Most Expensive Signings

Let’s start by running through the club’s signings with the highest price tags. Note that due to the nature of football transfer deals (that often include various add-ons), the figures given will be based on the initially reported fees, and all will be quoted in Euros, for consistency. Also, for the purposes of this article, we’ll define a big money transfer as one that commanded a (reported) fee of €60m or more.

Player From Fee Year
1. Enzo Fernandez Benfica €121m 2023
2. Moises Caicedo Brighton & Hove Albion €116m 2023
3. Romelu Lukaku Inter Milan €113m 2021
4. Wesley Fofana Leicester City €80.4m 2022
5. Kepa Arrizabalaga Athletic Bilbao €80m 2018
5. Kai Havertz Bayer Leverkusen €80m 2020
7. Mykhailo Mudryk Shakhtar Donetsk €70m 2023
8. Alvaro Morata Real Madrid €66m 2017
9. Marc Cucurella Brighton & Hove Albion €65.3m 2022
10. Christian Pulisic Borussia Dortmund €64m 2019
11. Roméo Lavia Southampton €62.10m 2023
12. Christopher Nkunku RB Leipzig €60m 2023

The Successes – Money Well Spent

Christian Pulisic
Christian Pulisic (sportsphotographer.eu | Bigstockphoto.com)

It’s sometimes hard to quantify success in football and whether a player has “paid back” their transfer fee. But here are the big-money signings who we think, on balance, could be viewed as successful. Of course, they’re not in the same league as signings like those of Didier Drogba for less than €40m or Petr Cech for just €13m. But let’s say these are the best of a rather bad bunch.

Kai Havertz – €80m, Scored Winning Goal in Champions League Final

Havertz might be something of a surprising choice given that he scored only four, eight and seven Premier League goals respectively in his three seasons at Chelsea. But the German delivered the goods when it really, really mattered as he scored the only goal in the 2021 Champions League final to allow Chelsea to beat Manchester City and grab the glory. Given that he was sold to Arsenal for the lion’s share of what the Blues had paid for him, we feel, all things considered, the Havertz signing could be viewed as having been successful.

Christian Pulisic – €64m, 26 Goals in 145 Appearances

Also an integral part of the Champions League-winning side of 2020/21 (although he only came on as a substitute in the second half of the final), Pulisic had four seasons at Chelsea and proved himself to be an important and consistent performer. Always assured and a real battler (even when some of his teammates weren’t quite up for it), he was sold to AC Milan for around a third of Chelsea’s initial outlay, which wasn’t a disaster.

The Flops – Money Frittered Away

Alvaro Morata
Alvaro Morata (canno73 | Bigstockphoto.com)

Okay, it might be a little unfair to call any player who plies his trade in the best league in the world a “flop”, but these things are all relative. Given that these particular players were purchased for tens of millions of pounds, the expectation levels are going to be justifiably high. And frankly, they failed to deliver the goods.

Romelu Lukaku – €113m, 15 Goals in 44 Games

It’s fair to say that when you spend over €100m on a striker, you need them to score a few goals. And to be fair to Lukaku, he did exactly that… but only a few. His return of eight goals in 26 Premier League appearances for the Blues (in what was his second spell at the club) was hardly earth-shattering. This is especially the case given he’d scored 24 Serie A goals in 2020/21 and 23 the season before.

In his defence, the Belgian international has never been quite as prolific as some top strikers, and he’s only breached the 20-goal mark once in a Premier League season (for Everton back in 2016/17). He’s still on the Chelsea books and currently on loan with Roma. But given he’ll be almost 31 at the end of the current season, it’s unlikely the Blues will recoup much of their outlay if they were to sell, and he doesn’t seem in the mood to give it another go with Chelsea.

Alvaro Morata – €66m, 24 Goals in 72 Games

With a similarly bad strike rate as Lukaku, former Real Madrid and Juventus man Morata really didn’t do well at Chelsea. After scoring 11 league goals in 31 matches in 2017/18 and five in 16 in 2018/19, he was loaned out to Atletico Madrid, then Juventus. At both clubs, he maintained a similarly poor scoring rate and was eventually sold to Atletico for a fee of around €35m before then being loaned back to Juve. So at least Chelsea got some money back, but the signing of Morata certainly goes down as a flop.

Marc Cucurella – €65.3m, 33 Premier League Appearances, No Goals

As a defender, Cucurella wasn’t bought to score goals, but for that price tag, he was certainly meant to be a regular starter for the Blues. Although there’s a chance he could turn things around, it appears he’s not Pochettino’s first choice and if he doesn’t break into the first team more regularly he might well be on his way in the summer.

The Jury’s Out – Time Will Tell

Enzo Fernandez
Enzo Fernandez (Tasnim News Agency | Wikipedia.org)

It’s too early to say whether the following players will prove money well spent or cash down the drain.

  • Roméo Lavia – Signed for around €62.10m from Southampton in August 2023, the Belgium international only made a single appearance for the Blues before injuries sidelined him. Still only 20 years of age, the defensive midfielder could have a bright future if he remains fit and gets a good run in the first team.
  • Enzo Fernandez – Yes, the price tag of €121m was ludicrous for a player with just a handful of international caps. And, he might not have made the kind of impact the fans would have liked. But he is a quality player and is only 23 years of age, so we’re willing to give him till the end of this season at least before making a final judgement. At the time of writing, he’s made the ninth-most passes of any midfielder in the Premier League in 2023/24.
  • Moises Caicedo – Signed from Brighton in August 2023 for a whopping €116m, the Ecuadorian defensive midfielder got the second-highest number of tackles of any player in the Premier League in 2022/23 (for the Seagulls). He’s started reasonably well at Chelsea and if he finds his feet he could grow into a decent signing, even at that price.
  • Mykhailo Mudryk – After moving from Shakhtar in the January window in 2023, Mudryk didn’t make a massive impact in the latter stages of the 2022/23 campaign. But having apparently settled, he’s had a fair 2023/24 so far with a couple of goals too so could well turn into a decent buy.