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Premier League

Chelsea’s U.S. owners suffer debut season flop despite huge outlay

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Champions League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Chelsea v Real Madrid - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - April 18, 2023 Chelsea co-owner and chairman Todd Boehly before the match REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Chelsea’s American owners saw their last hope of any glory in their first season crumble on Tuesday when the club they bought in a deal worth 4.25 billion pounds ($5.28 billion) last year were knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.

Marooned in the unfamiliar bottom half of the Premier League, Chelsea are at risk of their worst domestic league finish in nearly 30 years and they also fell at the first hurdle in the FA Cup and League Cup.

Their only chance of qualifying for next season’s lucrative Champions League by winning the competition has also now evaporated after Real’s 4-0 aggregate quarter-final win following a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.

The prospect of a drop in income is raising fears among Chelsea fans that some of the club’s best young players will be sold to meet financial rules.

The spectacular slump in the 2022/23 season – during which Chelsea have had three different coaches – stands in contrast with the string of heady campaigns under previous owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

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He was forced to sell the club by Britain’s government last year following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

Chelsea were the most successful team in England in the period between Abramovich buying the club in 2003 and its sale in 2022, a run that included two Champions League triumphs in 2012 and 2021 and five English league titles.

That track record – and the surge in global support for the west London club along the way – explained Chelsea’s appeal to a consortium led by LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly and backed by Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm.

BIG SPENDERS, LOW SCORERS

On top of the deal to buy the club last May, they have invested a further 550 million pounds on players, spending in the January transfer window more than all the clubs in the top divisions of Spain, Italy, Germany and France combined.

But somehow they failed to buy someone capable of scoring goals on a regular basis with a gamble on former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failing at almost the first test.

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Chelsea have scored 30 goals in 31 league games so far. By contrast, table-topping Arsenal have scored 74 and second-placed Manchester City have found the net 78 times.

Tuesday’s blank was the fifth in six games in all competitions.

With no spearhead for their attack, Chelsea’s managers this season – Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and now caretaker boss Frank Lampard – have all struggled to turn a collection of expensive stars and home-grown talent into a cohesive team.

Chelsea fans have turned their frustrations on the owners of the club and some were photographed remonstrating with Boehly in his executive box after last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion. British media said an upset Boehly talked to players in the dressing room after that result.

Now he and his fellow owners – none of whom had experience of running a major soccer club before they bought Chelsea – face the huge decision of who to hire as the club’s next coach.

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Candidates include former Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann and Luis Enrique, who coached Spain at the World Cup in Qatar. Such a high-profile manager would represent a big change in approach after the hiring of Potter from modest Brighton last September.

Regardless of who takes over, a return to Europe’s biggest stage seemed a distant prospect for the disappointed Chelsea fans streaming out of Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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